I had a couple of story ideas I wanted to explore at Pilgrimage Music Festival for both theITbaby and for Pocketables. Here’s the first – learn from my fails about taking young children to Pilgrimage.
For those who haven’t been, Pilgrimage Music Festival is one of the most child-friendly music fests you’re going to run across in Tennessee. Due to noise ordinances it closes at 8:30pm, and there are multiple activity tents and a stage exclusively for the youngsters. Additionally there’s art projects, face painting, and there was a giant pirate ship at the 2017 PMF as well.
They have changing tents, I’m told wipes and diapers (I didn’t change baby this time,) and the cleanest portapotties I’ve ever run across. Hot, but clean.
They sell out of tickets well before it gets claustrophobic.
I took a two year old and a four year old to Pilgrimage.
Our initial plan was as follows: take all the stuff. Take the plastic radio flyer wagon, throw a lot of the stuff in there, parking appeared plentiful, we would switch out and let a child nap in the car between interviews and any shows we wanted to see.
When I realized that on-site parking was not an option at this point in the game, the plan got modified to going in around when they were going to nap anyway and letting them sleep in the car while we waited in an expected half hour to an hour traffic.
We were backed up for a whole minute and twelve seconds before we were waved into free offsite parking (they counted our little ones, and 4 or more people park free). We contemplated forcing a nap here but everyone was excited so that just was not going to happen.
We hiked from the elementary school to the festival, went through the inspection without any incident, and hit the festival grounds.
The kid areas
First stop: water. They will not let you in with any and the guys keep repeating to pour you Camelbaks filled with Vodka out before the inspection station.
Second stop play area as we had no bands we were really needing to see at this point. Maggie went to town on a pirate ship, a kid’s band was playing that I was actually kind of digging, Aerin went off to paint in an easel forrest. Overall things started extremely well.
Then I saw Maggie pink up, sit down. I called her over and forced her to drink some water. She was sweating profusely. She did good after that, but that was 10 minutes in she was already looking dehydrated.
I can’t stress how nice the kid’s section was. It was a shame to leave it, but we each had a band we wanted to see, I had an interview set up I needed to get to, we couldn’t spend all day at the kid’s tent, it was time to go.
About this time things turned. Aerin got too hot, I sprinkled water on her, Maggie lost her brain – no attention span, miserable, we ventured back to get shade as we had followed the festival guidelines and not brought tall chairs, umbrellas, or anything that would mess with the view of those behind us. We were one of the few that did.
We had to walk so far from the stage to find shade that it was comical. We could have watched from outside the festival and had not much worse seats. This was the only unoccupied shade available and it turned into an island of kids going crazy.
Both kids were now hot, wanted naps, and the car was about a mile away. Each one would lay down, then one would touch the other, grab the insanely light blanket and keep it for herself, wake the other up, etc. It got bad.
I went to do my interview and returned a bit later with a drink, they still hadn’t calmed down. A friend of ours dropped by and the 4yo spent most of her time attempting to annoy him and alternately annoy anyone else around.
Maggie got removed temporarily while Kim went to see the Avett Brothers and Aerin, without being bothered by a too-pushing 4yo, passed out.
A little while later Maggie came back into the area. There were several hundred square feet of not-baby surrounding us and only one very marked sleeping baby. She stepped on her head. She stepped on her hands. She dropped a drink on her. She tripped, stumbled two steps and fell on her. She stumbled and dropped a frisbee from 5 feet away on her head.
She sat in a chair a good three feet from the baby, slouched, somehow fell feet first out of the thing and kicked baby in the head.
Tonight, look up at the moon. See all that sky around it? That’s the area she had to play with and she kept hitting a sleeping baby.
About this time I really hated everything as I’d transitioned from parent to a guy just yelling at an extremely forgetful 4yo that it’s hot, there’s no way anyone could keep stepping on the baby without intending to, we’re miserable and can’t move elsewhere, and no we’re not going back to the pirate ship. Fun was gone. It was misery for about an hour and a half.
The night came, it cooled off some and it was time for Justin Timberlake to perform. Maggie was convinced we were in a theater as we were so far from the stage she just saw two screens and assumed we were. At this point we weren’t going any closer because the crowd was swelling and it was absurd. We would easily lose her and she was going to either be on our shoulders or bored and looking at butts.
We’d started the day meeting someone dressed as Poppy from Trolls (unrelated to this event, and we were ending it with the guy who was Branch’s voice from the same movie.
Seemed pretty much like it would have enough to interest her.
I’d seen Mr Timberlake’s SNL sketches, the movie about the tour, you know I had no idea he cursed that much on stage. Well, Maggie heard it all. We got all day without much more than a “damn, it’s hot” from the artists until JT (Branch,) took the stage.
Yeah, if there’s one person I figured wasn’t going to be the cursing type it’s the guy who’s in the kids movie, but whatever.
Also got into singing “the roof, the roof, the roof is on fire”… yeah.. you know the rest.
Overall though that was the most fun. We danced to some of his songs, me and Maggie, and were fairly tired afterward.
Getting out was bad. Imagine 17,000 people going through a 60 foot wide opening. Now divide that opening into six or seven different areas in the same general place. I was hauling a little red wagon with my 4yo in it, the 2yo was being carried, we had our friend following making sure drunk people didn’t fall on her.
I was standing completely still, stuck in the crowd. A woman started freaking out that a non-sharp low-profile chair was digging into her leg. Er, yeah, 1 language, 2 I wasn’t moving she was, 3 there was no way for this to happen except she was trying to step into the Radio Flyer. Yes, a drunk woman decided that it was time to get in the cart.
Kim and baby got ahead and subsequently separated from us. We managed to keep everyone somewhat together once we caught up and untrampled by Maggie holding a flashlight so that people saw there was a tiny human. It was an extremely scary exit just mostly due to hot tired drunk people all slamming the exit at the same time.
We managed to get through the near-impenetrable (with a wagon,) roadblock caused by the on-site parkers attempting to get off site. I had to shimmy the wagon between two running vehicles, which in retrospect I really would just have waited an hour instead of dealing with.
Long walk with hundreds of people back to the car, followed by about a 40 minute wait before we could get out of the parking lot.
What we did wrong (day 1)
2yo was miserable the entire time she wasn’t in the kid area. She was also unable to express what particularly was making her miserable (heat mostly.) 2yo probably should not be at the concert. I don’t think there’s any other option here. She couldn’t cool off properly, didn’t have her ice cold milk, etc.
4yo was miserable because she had little to do. She wanted to be in the kid area constantly. We couldn’t trek it there over and over again just due to 2yo’s misery. The kid bands were not that great and neither of us wanted to miss everything about the festival.
We also had to stop her playing with people because she was in full blown annoy-people mode.
Probably should have separated, but with the wagon full of stuff it became hard. When baby PTFO it became harder.
Don’t take a folding chair for a kid. It’s just more weight and they’re not going to use it.
Blankets we brought were garbage. Highly rated on Amazon, but garbage. Touched this grass blanket and it went from 8×6 to 1×1 wadded ball of soon to be badly reviewed uselessness.
While the wagon was useful, it was also a lot more effort than expected. 90 pounds of kids and gear exhausted me when hauling through a field. My tires started sinking in. Needed thicker tires probably.
We brought hearing protection. This was not needed as we were a mile away and even when we weren’t we were far enough away that it wasn’t in damaging levels. We weren’t getting in the hearing loss zone with kids this little either. We’d lose them.
What Pilgrimage Festival did wrong
They needed misting tents everywhere. We found one tent that was not on the map on day two. This would have been useful day one. I don’t know if it was there then.
The no outside food or drink screws it up for a milk-chugging baby.
People who followed the rules and didn’t bring umbrellas and tall chairs were boiling stuck without a view behind people with umbrellas and tall chairs.
Water delivery stations were bad. Everyone’s there with a camelbak. They had water fountain fillers and inconsistent water pressure. To fill a camelbak you had to stick your finger in and then press the button and hope a stream of water didn’t hit someone on the other side of the troff.
Water stations were placed in ways that the line for the station and the only way to get from side A to B intersected (could have been solved with a tensabarrier).
Kid’s section needed shade umbrellas, misting tents.
I think with one kid this would have been fine. With a child of four or up most of the problems we had with misery probably would have been manageable.
Mostly day one was an experiment in what could possibly go wrong and we discovered it and came up with plans to conquer it the next day.