I need to start this post by declaring from the rooftops that I love the Newport Jazz Festival. My husband and I have gone every year–rain or shine–before and since children. It’s a two-day oasis, a mini-vacation, a feast for the senses.
But I would be lying if I said that the last several years have been easy. The festival is not a kid-friendly place. Granted, there is a kids’ “tent,” if you will, where children can stop by and paint–however, this year, if they wanted to paint, parents needed to shell out a minimum of $10 for a wooden figurine. They couldn’t paint on paper or rocks or anything that might be free; the only items available for painting were for sale.
Yesterday we attended the Beantown Jazz Festival in Boston. And while admission was free, I need to preface what comes next by saying I have never begrudged a fair ticket price for any entertainment. There is a lot of work that goes into a show, and I fully believe all artists should be paid fairly. So, it wasn’t the free admission that knocked me out (though it is an added bonus) but rather how welcome children seemed to be.
I do not believe that every place, every venue, every event needs to be kid-friendly. Far from it. It’s nice to be able to go out to dinner with another adult and know that the host isn’t going to hand you crayons as you enter.
But a music festival is different. Music is for everyone, and an outdoor festival should be for all. Of course, there is nothing prohibiting children’s attendance at the Newport Jazz Festival; in fact, they have a $15 ticket for each of them ages two and up. So, getting through the gates is not the issue. It’s what you do once you get inside.
Young children have a hard time sitting. They need to move; and while they may occasionally dance to the rhythms they’re hearing, it’s often not enough. A single tent where kids can paint is a nice addition and offers a brief diversion, but young children and their families need more–that is, if you’d like to keep them all on the festival grounds for the longest time possible.
At the Beantown Jazz Festival there was a craft tent (which featured activities and coloring pages–all inspired by the music); another tent where kids could look at and play with the very instruments they saw the musicians playing on stage; a jam tent where kids played along to stories being read; and, of course, the requisite bouncers–those ubiquitous inflated contraptions that while they are admittedly a germ-infested lair offer the opportunity for the tremendous release of energy.
What this communicated to me as a participant is that the Beantown Jazz Festival wanted my entire family, small children included, to come– and stay. They wanted my children to focus on music, on jazz, for the hours we were there. They wanted them to learn something. What the Newport Jazz Festival communicates to me as a parent is that they are happy to sell me a ticket but after that I’m on my own.
The problem is is that the Newport Jazz Festival sets the standard for jazz festivals, and it’s in our own backyard. But as the parent of three future fans, I would ask that they consider bringing in whatever it takes to keep these future fans there for as long as the can and show all jazz fans who happen to be parents of young children that you understand.