By -Bill Kerschbaum.
It was our first night at
the fest. I stood in line at the concession stand, waiting for my strawberry-lemon
shake-up, trying to ignore the screeching guitar and wailing of the anarcho-punk
band playing nearby at the Impromptu Stage. As I collected my change from
the vendor I noticed my son bouncing his head to the noise. This would
be no surprise, except that my son is two years old. Goodbye Barney, hello
American Culture eXperiments and Dead Poetic.
Many parents are nervous
about bringing babies and young children to Cornerstone, but my wife and
I have found the festival with our son to be a terrific experience, his
attraction to punk music notwithstanding. Even toddlers enjoy good music
other than Disney children’s songs, and five days of camping, fun games
and activities, and being outdoors as a family creates wonderful memories
for you and your children.
This was our second Cornerstone
with our son. At last year’s festival, famous for its extreme heat, we
learned how to keep a baby cool. This year we learned how to keep an active
toddler entertained. Below are some pearls of wisdom from our own experience
for parents considering doing Cornerstone with a small child.
Cornerstone is a real
The heat index at the festival
has been known to soar above 95 degrees some years, so it’s very important
to be prepared for a sweltering climate. Temperatures can be pretty intense,
but as long as you are prepared you will have a great time with your kids.
Outside of a couple camping areas, there is very little shade, except for
the stage tents, which can be a bit stifling when they are crowded. The
best option at a concert is to sit outside, in the shadow of the tent.
There you will catch a breeze and you can duck out easily if your child
suddenly needs to be removed from the area.
Some items to have with
you: Spray bottles are great for keeping cool. Drop a couple of ice cubes
in the bottle, set the nozzle to mist, let your child go shirtless, and
have fun with the water. Be sure to bring plenty of drinking water or juice
to keep everyone in your party hydrated. This year, we also kept a small
inflatable pool filled with cool water at the campsite.
A couple warning signs to
watch for: dry skin; high fever; lethargy; very infrequent wet diapers
(or trips to the port-a-potty). A first aid station is located near the
Midway if you get concerned about your child’s health at the festival.
Living sacrifice ain’t
just a band.
Be prepared to miss the
concert you are dying to go to. Whether it is bedtime, a tantrum, or the
need to be otherwise occupied, young children have a way of overriding
your concert plans. One parent told me about the first time he and his
wife brought their baby with them to Cornerstone: “I was in tears because
I missed the one concert I had to see.” But learning to make sacrifices
for his children has actually enriched his festival experience. “[Cornerstone]
is more interpersonal this way,” he said, stating, “There is more to the
festival than just the concerts. There are the people and other activities,
too, and making the sacrifices kids need allows parents to experience the
festival at a deeper level.”
Have fun with Mr. Nicky.
Kids need their own fun
and activities and Cornerstone has plenty of opportunities for young children
to worship, play, and explore. Creation Station hosts kids’ shows like
Worship with Mr. Nicky and the Hampel Family Circus, while the Art Rageous
tent provides great opportunities for kids to explore the arts. Games for
all ages are scheduled as well. Most of these activities run early in the
day, which means you won’t be singing “This Little Light of Mine” while
your favorite band is singing the title track to their upcoming release.
Pack like a rat.
Children love good music,
and even toddlers can enjoy the concerts you want to see. But you will
need a survival kit. Be sure to have the following at each show you go
to: ear plugs (good luck getting kids under two to keep them in, but you
should try anyway), sunblock, a few toys/books to occupy your child during
the shows, stroller (great for napping in at a concert), ground blanket,
spray bottle, plenty of water/juice, snacks, diaper bag (if applicable).
To sleep, perchance to
dream four hours a night.
Cornerstone concerts run
as late as 2:00 a.m., and believe it or not, dawn arrives at 5:30 a.m.
If your kids are anything like mine, they’ll be up when the first ray of
light hits the tent. Don’t count on a lot of sleep, but it is important
for your child to get as much as possible. There are two camping areas
that are great for families. Both have shade, and they are a bit farther
from the music than the other campsites. The Early Curfew area has some
shade if you can find a good spot, and it is in a good location--not too
a long walk to the Midway, but far enough to filter most of the noise of
night owl campers. The Shire is farther away, which means pushing a stroller
or carrying your child a longer distance, but it has a lot of shade and
more room to spread out. Being farther from the Midway, the late night
concerts are much less of a distraction while trying to sleep.
For some parents, sleeping
off-site is an attractive option. Hotels in the area are reasonably
priced and provide peace and quiet as well as air conditioning. Dorms
are available at Western Illinois University, in nearby Macomb. The
dorms are less expensive, but they are dorms--you get what you pay for.
In my experience, if you sleep off-site you should be prepared to miss
some of the late night concerts and morning seminars.
Look for every opportunity
to enjoy the festival, whether it is going to a great show with your kids,
creating artwork together, or just hanging out at the campsite. Cornerstone
is a wonderful opportunity for families to create lasting memories, no
matter how young your kids are.
Official website: <http://www.cornerstonefestival.com/>