Since having my two children I have been wondering if my festival days are over. Occasionally, while daydreaming at my desk, I’ve Googled ‘child-friendly festival’ to see which ones might be a goer with a two-year-old and three-year-old in tow. Then one day my search pulled up the 3Foot People Festival at Hylanda Park in Chelmsford, a festival exclusively for preschoolers! This is probably the average festival-goers idea of hell, but for me the idea was heaven. A whole summer’s day in a field with plenty to see and do, yummy food to eat, and no worrys about whether the kids will be bored.
And the event surpassed my expectations. Once you have purchased your £9.50 ticket, every event and activity is free. No digging into your pockets every five minutes as the child on your arm pleads to have their face painted or to see a show. For one day you can be the world’s most generous mum, saying yes to every request, letting your child lead the way and create their own special day.
The number of events and activities on offer was a little overwhelming, but it didn’t matter that we didn’t get to see everything – we have next year to explore a different path (the event is open to children up to the age of five). And it was often the little things that would capture my children’s imagination – the carpet laid out with rocking horses of various sizes, the pots and pans on a blanket, the telephone receivers hung from an awning.
The organised activities included lots of singing and dancing, gymnastics, drumming, plenty of theatre and live entertainment – including some awe-inspiring stilt walkers that amazed my two-year-old. But what I liked best was the whole feel of the place. Unlike other festivals I’ve been to, it didn’t feel like everyone wanted you to part with as much money as possible. There were free bottles of water and comfortable chairs in the nursing tent, the food and drink were reasonably priced (we had a £5 kids meal of mac and cheese, breadsticks and juice, which was enough to feed both my children – and I indulged in a £3.50 tray of sweet potato fries). When the string came off the helium balloon animal I had bought my son (which at £4 was the most expensive item I bought other than the food), the woman at the stall happily blew up another one and replaced it fee of charge. All these small things help make a parent relaxed in an environment which, if handled differently, could be very stressful.
Although the festival site was large, I never worried about losing one of the children. When we arrived we were asked to write a code word on their wrist bands so if they were found the organisers could make sure they went back to the right parent, but the site wasn’t over crowded and it was always easy to spot our little people, even if they had wandered off a little way.
Highlights for my children included the petting farm animals – they got to stroke a full-size sheep as well as see baby goats, ducks, rabbits and even a snake – the sandpit of golden sand, the Playmobil tent where they got to play with all the castles and cars and caravans that we deem too expensive to own, and the shows.
This year the tickets sold out in just 48 hours. I hope I’m quick enough to get mine next year. Keep an eye on the website to see when tickets go on sale.