New look: Charley Wilson-Hildebrandt has her face painted by Sophie Northeast in the HUB International Family Zone.

New look: Charley Wilson-Hildebrandt has her face painted by Sophie Northeast in the HUB International Family Zone.

Festival introduces playtime all over the grounds

Parents gave the changes to the children’s area at the Roots and Blues Festival mixed reviews

Parents gave the changes to the children’s area at the Roots and Blues Festival mixed reviews, but the kids… they were more focused on flubber, face paint and fun.

The kids zone at the festival was scaled back and headquartered in the fenced- off area near the front of the site previously used for the World music stage. The most notable difference was the lack of a musical stage especially for children’s performers, which pleased some parents but disappointed others.

“I like the change. We are alternating. We come here for a bit and the kids blow off steam. Then the kids are coming with us to the other stages and then they are more content to listen to the music for a while,” says Adaire Fotheringham, who has attended the last three festivals with her children.

Others missed the children’s performers.

“They’ve had some really good acts over the years, Fred Penner, Sharon and Bram and they really got families involved,” says Louise Yanko, who called herself a festival veteran. “Now I feel like they’ve put us in here, behind this fence and my kids aren’t as happy. They miss the climbing wall too. I get that they need to save money, but maybe they could have put a kids performer on one of the other stages earlier in the day.”

The kids area included a couple of bouncy houses, a sand pile, displays from the Okanagan Science Centre and an Arts and Crafts tent, with the ever-popular face painting. All were drawing crowds of enthusiastic kids.

Parents offered a few valuable tips for taking children to the festival.

“A wagon, bring a wagon or a stroller and snacks, lots of snacks.” said Hana Lebo.

“I love that there’s plenty of places to get water and the handicapped port-a-potties work great with the little ones who need help. The is a very family friendly place to come.”

One of the ways festival organizers worked to keep the family-friendly festival vibe was to encourage play at various mobile sites around the grounds.

Roxy Roth, busking co-ordinator, says the idea is that everyone needs more play time.

“It’s all-ages play. The vision is the whole festival site is a place to play and that families do not get stuck in one place for the whole festival. All ages can be playing together. We’ve all got an inner child and what a better place than at a music festival.”

Attractions included giant bubble-making, hula-hoops and spin-boys. There were also interactive drumming workshops that combined musicians with anyone who could bang a drum.

“It was so great to see the grandmas hula-hooping with their grandchildren. It gave kids and grown ups a chance to let loose, smile and play. It creates engagement, relationships. It was a way to meet new people and you could feel the energy,” said Roth.

As far as the kids were concerned, every pint-sized festivalgoer the Observer spoke with gave the event a thumbs up.

Seven-year-old May Fotheringham loved the art tent, making a ton of crafts, while her five-year-old brother Owen said his favourite was the water balloon race, in which an elaborate pump contraption gave participants the opportunity to get drenched.

Kate Pinsonneault, 8, and her friend, Anja Baxter, 10, also described themselves as festival veterans and said the music was the best part, but this year’s line up didn’t fare as well in their estimation as when Serena Ryder played the festival a few years ago.

Kate’s brother Matt was also impressed by Serena Ryder but his favourite performance was K’naan.

“I just like coming each year and helping at my uncle’s coffee shop. I like helping and meeting all the people.”