Family-Friendly Music Festivals
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Parenthood doesn’t have to mean the end of good times at outdoor music festivals (although head-banging at Lollapalooza may have to take a hiatus). As long as energetic kids have room to roam a little and age-appropriate tunes to enjoy, everyone can have a fun day with the arts. In fact, there are a number of events that are family-friendly either by the nature of their music, or because of strong children’s performance schedules. Here's a few to get you started:
Jazz and Heritage Festival, New Orleans LA With twelve stages of jazz, blues, folk, zydeco and Cajun offerings spread over two April-May weekends, this blowout is back to pre-Katrina strength, chère. The Kid’s Stage features nonstop Louisiana-based musicians in every possible genre and age, like Sunpie and the Louisiana Sunspots (Creole) and Curtis Pierre (samba). There are musical parades and Native American pow-wows several times each day, and the iconic Neville Brothers close the festival on the final Sunday.
Stagecoach, Indio CA A two-day country music festival near Palm Desert in early May, Stagecoach has a playbill just for young ones called the Half-Pint Hootenanny on the L’il Wagoneers Stage. Scoot your boots to Western swing and playful cowboy crooning for the “little dogies,” plus Americana and roots music for all ages.
Fiddler’s Grove, Union Grove NC Kids just naturally enjoy lilting, energetic old-time fiddle music, and Fiddler’s Grove has featured the best since 1924. There are junior- and senior-level competitions, informal jams and workshops, all about an hour north of Charlotte on a late May weekend. The “Fiddler of the Festival” playoff is a highlight, but other instruments like the mandolin and hammered dulcimer get ample airtime as well.
Symphony in the Flint Hills, Eskridge KA Immerse your family in the pioneer heritage and beauty of the Kansas Flint Hills, but in an unusual way. As the June sun sets on the waving wildflowers and rustling grasses of the last contiguous Tallgrass Prairie in the world, the Kansas City Symphony performs a 90-minute classical music outdoor concert in this prairie “concert hall.” Earlier that afternoon, there are birding hikes, Native American presentations, covered wagon rides and a musical instrument “petting zoo” with hands-on learning about the orchestra’s four families of instruments.
Bumbershoot, Seattle WA One of the largest urban music and arts festivals in the world, the festival with the funny name is a Labor Day institution, offering plenty of ear candy spread across a 74-acre park. Previous acts include Buckwheat Zydeco, high school jazz combos, the amazing guitar of Rodrigo y Gabriela and many diverse programs in the Kids Pavilion.
Austin City Limits Festival, Austin TX The late September ACL Festival in Austin’s Zilker Park features an entire children’s section and stage called “Austin Kiddie Limits.” Previous years have had a mix of groups like The Sippy Cups and Jambo mixed with child-focused performances from singers Sara Hickman, Ziggy Marley and Ben Kweller. The School of Rock teaches guitar licks, and the fun extends to songwriting seminars and even breakdancing workshops.
At any open-air event, remember to dress yourself and the kids in comfortable shoes, bring an umbrella or raincoat, and a blanket, camera, sunscreen and hats for everyone. Toss in some foamie earplugs, and you'll be ready for a family-friendly set to remember!
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