The best trick for surviving Bele Chere with kids is to leave town for the weekend — which is my plan this year. The second best trick is to offload your kids on someone else — a grandparent, a baby sitter or the parent of one of your kids’ friends — and let them guide your offspring through the masses of sweaty beer-soaked humanity that characterize Asheville’s annual street fest.
If you insist on chaperoning your kids yourself, you’re clearly a better person than me. For you better people, I’ve come up with a few tricks to make the experience more bearable based on the past times when I felt it was my parental duty to take my progeny to Bele Chere.
First off, take the bus or walk, if possible. That way you don’t have to search for a parking space only to find one a mile down Montford Avenue, which your kids (or at least my kids) will whine about having to traverse. Also (and this is important) you can then imbibe a refreshing adult beverage or three without worry while navigating the festival.
Second, remember that you can’t take the aforementioned adult beverage into the Civic Center during Bele Chere — which is the current locale of the designated kids’ area. So visit the other kid-friendly stuff first, like the Ultimate Air Dogs, the drumming tent, the skateboard demos, and the misting tents. Then mosey over to rug-rat central, buy some overpriced ride tickets, and let the kids wear themselves out. Do not accompany your children on the spinning teacup ride unless you’re comfortable with vomit (Please don’t tell me there’s a fetish for that. Just. Don’t.).
And once again, for those of you who’ve missed reading my Bele Chere pieces for the previous three years, I offer you my favorite small child at festival trick — the permanent marker. Write your cell phone somewhere on your kid’s body with a permanent marker before you hit the crowds (inside of the arm is a good spot). Even if your child knows your phone number, the moment he gets lost and can’t find you, all relevant identification information may dissipate from his anxious little brain. In these days of ubiquitous cell phones, it’s much more difficult for kids to get lost, even if they’re trying to do so.
Finally, if there’s a band you really want to hear, don’t take your kids with you — unless you’ve sufficiently brainwashed them to love that band as well. If so, I take my cap off to you. Although my two deign to listen to some of “my” music, as soon as I get excited about a live performance, they’re sure to respond with boredom, irritation and the sudden inexplicable need for an ice cream cone.
Which reminds me — step away from the funnel cakes. A little festive fat and sugar won’t hurt, but I’ve observed that there seems to be a direct ratio between the number of funnel cakes consumed and the level of chaos in the kids’ area.
For the music and performance schedules specifically for children, check out Mountain Xpress’ rocking Bele Chere guide (out Wednesday!).