My own children went to Grateful Dead concerts at a young age, back when a lot of kids accompanied their parents, and the crowds were more family-friendly. We stayed in the back of indoor venues, so the volume didn’t hurt their ears. Outdoor venues were no problem. We went to many outdoor concerts in various parks on the East and West Coasts. I was always aware of our surroundings and made sure they felt comfortable. Once, I took my youngest to an Alive at Five concert in Albany, NY where there was a lot of drinking. We both felt uncomfortable in a crowd that was inconsiderate and boisterous and left after just a couple of songs. Other times, the same venue was fine. It often depends on the band that’s playing and who they attract. I always checked in with them and left if they’d had enough. We also went to classical concerts geared for youth, pop concerts and even an operetta.
My favorite music events to bring my family to were music festivals, some large and some small. Our favorite kid-friendly festivals were the GottaGetGone Festival in Ballston Spa, NY, Old Songs Festival in Altamont, NY, Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in Hillsdale, NY and Champlain Valley Festival in Burlington, VT. My kids and grandkids ran around with a pack of other kids, some of whom they would see only once a year. We would camp for a weekend or extended weekend, sharing food, companionship and music. The kids would make new friends, mingle with the performers, make arts and crafts and often make their own music. The music communities at these festivals became family that we would see every year, widening our children’s horizons and enriching all our lives. I couldn’t possibly list all the benefits that children get from these experiences. They often grow up and then bring their own children. They remember the richness of those times forever. Even my adult children who have moved away and my adult grandson who can’t get away, still share fond memories of the festivals they attended and long to go back.
You can purchase day tickets to try it out rather than deciding to camp. Or, if it’s a local festival, you can buy a full-festival ticket and commute. Every festival has volunteer opportunities, too. Some of the crews fill up fast such as my Activities 4 Kids crew at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. Others always seem to have a few spots available. At Falcon Ridge, you pay a nominal fee to volunteer and receive free admission and camping plus two meals a day, breakfast and dinner, with snacks and drinks provided throughout. That’s the best way to get to know people and join a wonderful community. Kids always get in free, and I’ve never met a kid yet who didn’t want to return year after year. I encourage you to try it, if you’re not already hooked. I'll be at Falcon Ridge this weekend, rain or shine, running the Activities 4 Kids tent. Maybe I'll see you there.