A shift in priorities is needed when attending a festival with kids. The 14th annual Four Corners Folk Festival on Reservoir Hill in Pagosa Springs featured an all-star lineup but required a lot of flexibility.
Music is the draw for adults, but it becomes more of a backdrop to a family getaway than the front-and-center attraction it once was in the childless days. A happy festival can be enjoyed by listeners of all ages, but for those attending with young kids, flexibility is the key.
For example, the time slot for your favorite band on the main stage may be the same time your kids want to examine the intricacies of ponderosa pine bark or play in the mud left from the afternoon rainstorm. It means you may listen to the music from your campsite while you enjoy the rhythmic snores of a sleeping baby.
It requires extra planning and packing. It means traveling light is not an option. Hula hoops and hammocks are near the top of the list, and for younger kids, buckets and shovels are a must. The bark chips were a big improvement over last year's straw and mud and kept the kids busy digging, hauling, moving and dumping.
Buying a vehicle pass also is a requirement. The shuttles are convenient and easy, but cannot accommodate bikes, wagons, balloons, circus tents, multiple bags of clothes and loaded coolers needed to placate a family.
While adults have a knack for sitting for endless hours and listening to music, kids are anything but sedentary. Thank goodness for the Four Corners Kids tent, which has been providing fun stuff for kids to see and do since 1998. Making percussion instruments or decorating a hat and other ongoing arts and crafts kept little hands busy. The first 200 kids received souvenir T-shirts they could color, and then display their wearable art. Entertainment proved diverse and amusing with a solo performance by Bruce Hayes and a selection of world music from Paula and Carla Roberts.
Juggler Michael Taylor started his performance running through the festival crowd with his audience chasing him. With their energy spent, they were able to sit and concentrate on his juggling act. He asked his audience if they wanted to see something graceful or dangerous and juggled a knife, an agricultural sickle and a pear when they demanded the latter.
He described his talent by saying, "I enjoy throwing things at myself."
Mysto the Magi awed his audience with his close-up magical tricks, ripping dollar bills in half and burning them only to restore them later. Because each act was performed multiple times throughout the weekend, his audience got wise to his tricks. He learned what a following he had when he asked how many kids had seen his act the day before and the majority of hands went up.
But for all of the work and energy it takes, and all of the tantrums and sleepless nights parents endure, going to a festival with kids is worth it. The exposure to such an array of high-quality musicians is priceless. Kudos to all the parents who choose to spend their leisure time camping at a music festival.
As my husband said as we drove home after three days of top-notch entertainment, a family that festivals together, stays together.
Karin L. Becker teaches composition at Fort Lewis College. Reach her at becker_K@fortlewis.edu.