The Edgy kids love Bele Chere — for about two hours and $75. Yes, Bele Chere can be expensive with kids, but the festival also can be loads of fun. Just keep a few things in mind.
First, the to-do list. Pack a backpack with the following items: sunscreen, ball caps, water bottles (filled with H20), snacks (major $$$ saver), a couple of bandannas, hand sanitizer and a permanent marker.
Most of these items are self-explanatory. The least obvious, but most important, is the permanent marker. Even if your kids know your cell phone number by heart, the moment they wander off in the crowd and can’t find you, all relevant identification information will disappear from their anxious brains.
I use the permanent marker to temporarily tattoo my cell phone number on the inside of my kids’ arms. If they get lost, I tell them to find someone who looks like a mommy and ask her to call the number. You can also write the number (and any other relevant information) on their legs under their shorts (just so random people aren’t tempted to call you).
If you have a wanderer (my boy’s one), also try to dress the kid in something bright and easy-to-spot in a crowd. An orange ball cap works well. I’ve also tied a balloon onto the back of the kid’s cap. (Just don’t forget to remove it before putting him on the Ferris wheel.) I also find that if I wear something outrageous — like a hot pink rhinestone-studded cap — the kids are less likely to lose me. Alternately, a bright T-shirt that you’ve called the kids’ attention to helps. “Look kids. Mom’s wearing a red shirt today.”
Now on to the festival. While the kids’ area is entertaining, the rides can get pricy. I buy a set number of tickets, split them between my two, and explain that when they’re gone, they’re gone. Finito, done. The same works with festival food, particularly if it’s a matter of want over need (remember the snacks in your backpack). I give my kids both a fiver for food, which basically means they each can afford an ice-cream cone.
Once the kids get their ya-yas out on the rides, we wander. I find the things my children like most aren’t necessarily in the kids’ area. The Ultimate Air Dogs provide lots of entertainment, plus the location, just behind the BB&T Building, is fairly shady. The misting tents are better than many of the rides, with the added benefit of cooling off Mama. The drumming tent and the skateboarding demos are also fun for kids.
In terms of music and performance for kids, check out Mountain Xpress’ kids-events’ listings in the rocking Bele Chere guide.
Remember that Sunday tends to be the more laid-back, kid-friendly day (no alcohol), although the streets are filthy by then, so try to keep the rug rats up and away from the food remnants lining the gutters.
Sunday’s line-up on the Haywood Street Stage includes Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, a hip-hop master who performs with his adorable daughter, and the much-beloved “Elvis of Asheville,” Billy Jonas.
Try not to overdo it, time-wise, with the kids, and you’ll all be happier. I try to leave before my kids get tired and grumpy, though I sometimes misjudge. And I’ll be leaving them with their grandparents on Saturday, so I can work at the Mountain Xpress tent and have an “adult” experience of the festival. See you there!
Go to the Mountain Xpress Bele Chere Web site for more information.
— Anne Fitten Glenn