Last weekend my posse (hubby + daughters) and I travelled to Toronto for the yearly Arts & Crafts FIELD TRIP music festival. The festival was promoted as a family-friendly event with admission for kids 12 and under free, Sharon and Bram (from The Elephant Show!!) on the bill and the constant mention of “lots to do for the kids” via social media.
These days, I kind of view music festivals the same way I do broccoli: I don’t actually expect my kids to love them as much as I do but if we keep exposing them, then just maybe that day will come. So, with all of the mention of fun kid stuff, food trucks and Alabama Shakes headlining, I was sold on a couple of single day passes ($70 cdn each).
1) Don’t go early if you actually want to see the headliners! Like most activities with kids, you have a two hour window, at best, so make the most of it. Gates for Field Trip opened at 1pm, we arrived at 5:30pm — after a relaxed day at home and a healthy lunch and dinner. As we entered the main gates of Toronto’s Fort York we ran into a few groups of friends all on their way out, the concensus being, “My kid(s) have had enough.” Get the most of your tickets by planning your two hour window around the set times of the bands you really want to see or at least hear — because your child will need to use the washroom just as the band hits the stage and 1500 young, childless hipsters then stand between you and a view. We music-hungry parents need to take whatever we can get, right?!
This was an event where in and out privileges were no problem so if you’re really savvy, go early with your kids, have some fun, go home, greet the babysitter and return sans babies and ready to dance.
2) You need gear. The days of ID, phone, cash and you’re out the door are over. A few essentials I recommend:
- Lawn blankets. As many as you can stuff into a backpack because they’ll double as needed warmth once the sun goes down.
- Folding lawn chairs. To keep your kids and your drinks off the ground, away from the threat of distracted feet.
- Snacks. Every venue seems to have their own set of rules on what foods you can bring in with you but most family-friendly events have no objection to sealed packages of granola bars, fruit strips, cookies, apple sauce, and whatever else works to keep glucose levels up and meltdowns away.
- Bottled water. Now you know I want to save the planet, I really do, but you’re incentive here is to simplify your life so you can have a good time. Unless you have a reusable water bottle that can easily fasten to something and you don’t have to fret about loosing it, I recommend bottled water and tossing the empties in one of the hundreds of blue recycling bins available.
- Hand sanitizer. Think: port-a-potty. *shivers*
- Cash $. Beer and cider was being sold for a whopping $11.50 a can so plan accordingly. Food truck fare is no different with most small plates priced around $10. ATM machines are available but who needs another line to stand in?!
- A deck of cards. So simple and so convenient, you’ll be amazed how rewarding a game of Go Fish between sets can be.
The ‘family area’ was a BLAST with jumping castles, ping pong tables, hoola hoops (with professional hoola hooping instructors on hand), an art tent where the kids could decorate a paper bag and then place an LED candle inside and sealed with string — creating a beautiful evening concert effect, kind of like a five year old’s version of swaying a lighter to Free Bird. There was a handmade pizza stand (I didn’t have any but the margherita looked magnifico), fruit and gelato vendors and a clean grassy knoll for kids to simply be kids in — all while parents mingled, sipped cider and listened to live music performed nearby.
Alabama Shakes hit the stage promptly at 9:30pm, thankfully. Lead singer, Brittany Howard, is an absolute force of nature and their performance was worth the day’s effort and admission. BUT it was Hamilton’s own Arkells that stole the show that day, throwing down a great family rock n’ roll dance-your-pants-off set.
Now for my rant: It is awesome that so many music festivals are becoming more family-friendly but I don’t get the impression that the bands appreciate the audience that comes with it. For example, Joel Plaskett not performing Fashionable People at CBC Music Festival after performing the song (and having it run a gazillion times) on CBC Kids or Alabama Shakes playing a full set of slower, lesser known tracks from their new album and waiting until 11pm curfew to break into the danceable singles (but never did they play Hold On!).
Know your audience. We, the parents, are working our butts off to expose these kids to your art so if you could just give a little more thought to your set list, you could be planting the seed for a whole new generation of fans.
Anyhow, it was a good day filled with a lot of laughs, really cool people and some great music, plus I feel like the kids were convinced a little more that music festivals are a great place to be. Boreal Gelato‘s Dr. Pepper flavoured gelato certainly helped with that. Maybe we should try broccoli gelato??
Will you see us at next year’s Field Trip? Absolutely but I do have a few request for the promoters to consider:
1) a family-friendly washroom area close(r) to the kid events would be great. The main washroom areas were way too far away and they always had large line ups to contend with. Not to mention, as much as I want to expose my kids to music festivals, there are just some things going on in and around adult port-a-potties that they just don’t need to see (or hear) yet.
2) You put so much into marketing this event as family-friendly, could you please pass along that messaging to the vendors and bands. For the dozens of gourmet fish taco options available, once the sun went down, we would have thrown down some serious coin for a warm, kid-friendly treat like donuts or churros or hot chocolate… (See above for music rant.)
All-in-all a successful adventure. And, hey, if I’m going to have to stand in line for a port-a-potty (again, *shivers*) I sure am glad it comes with a beautiful view of the CN Tower and an Alabama Shakes soundtrack.
Thanks Arts & Crafts. Thanks Toronto.
P.S. “Don’t Wanna Fight” continues to be our household’s theme song. Life with headstrong sisters made better by great music.Add to favorites