Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pack Your Bags: for festivals, fairs, a day out

The Smithsonian’s Folklife Festival opened yesterday on The Mall near the Smithsonian Musems, kicking off the summer festival season in Washington DC.  Each year this festival covers two or three varying themes – a little something for everybody. This year’s themes are Campus & Community, celebrating land-grant universities; Citified, focusing on the DC neighborhoods around the Anacostia River; and Creativity and Crisis, with a display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. The events are free and there are food vendor tents and a marketplace.

With our busy sports schedule, I hope to get down there for a day.  A friend of mine is one of the behind-the-scenes festival planners and it was her invitation that first drew me and the kids there; we’ve gone when the themes were Asia and Latin America and really enjoyed the food, music, and displays.

Through the summer, we’ll also probably get to the county fair, the zoo, and other outdoor wandering around events.  We’ve already spent a day out a couple weekends ago for the Girl Scouts’ 100th Anniversary Rock The Mall celebration.  Being well-supplied and prepared helps to make the day enjoyable.  Here’s a few things that we carry.

The bags:
  • a backpack or a large tote bag, either an over the shoulder or across your body type, rather than a regular purse to be able to carry more stuff and not be as concerned if it gets dusty or spilled on. 
  • a soft-sided, insulated tote for snacks and water; this also with a shoulder strap.  I don’t like hard-side coolers for walking days because they are more cumbersome to carry. 
What to carry:
  • A washcloth – consider wetting it and carrying in a plastic sandwich bag for sticky fingers and dusty hands
  • Water bottles for everybody – more convenient, cheaper than buying water while you are out
  • Cash, in small bills – easier for getting quick snacks from vendors or souvenirs
  • Fully-charged cell-phone – its obvious, but how many times have you walked out to find its only half-charged?
  • Snacks, lunch – even if you plan on eating your lunch there, pack some munchies for the inevitable “we’re hungry and we’re going to die if we don’t eat right now” moments.  Sometimes the point of the Festival is the food, so I’d rather carry my own trail mix and fruit, and save my spending for the international vendors or the BBQ stand or whatever is the real Festival fare.  As a vegetarian, I like to carry a little something, a peanut butter & jelly sandwich or a protein bar, just in case I'm stuck with French fries as the only option.
  • Sun protection – sunscreen, hat
  • First-aid (the basics) – a bottle/tube of Neosporin, some band-aids, a few aspirin/pain relievers - all in a plastic sandwich bag or pencil pouch so you can find it easily
Strollers or baby carriers - note to new moms: I personally didn’t like strollers for these type of walk around days.  Yes, it’s a great way to move the baby in his own little vehicle, but it can sometimes be cumbersome in crowds and places that may not be stroller-friendly (getting up and down steps at museums or escalators on the Metro, or dirt paths).  If you go with the stroller, leave the super-duper one at home and go with a more compact umbrella stroller.  I personally, preferred the baby carriers you strap/tie on to you; these also made me feel more secure that someone wasn't going to snatch my baby and run away.  Think about what works for you.

Identify your kids - when we went to the Girl Scouts’ anniversary, we boarded the Metro as three troops with somewhere over 30 girls, heading into a sea of over 200,000 girls all with the same t-shirt on.  On the chance we might lose one, we employed a few tricks to identify them, many gleaned from Disney World experiences.
  • Tuck a business card with your cell phone number in each kid’s pocket.  I made troop cards for the Girl Scout day; for my own family, I’ve had cards made (real cheap from VistaPrint) with our names and cell phone numbers, you can also make them yourself.  (I also do this for camp and other outings when they’re away from me.)
  • With a Sharpie, write your cell-phone (but not your name) on the inside of your kid’s arm - a good idea for little kids who might be too frantic and upset to remember their other IDs.
  • Write your name and cell-phone on the inside of their t-shirt, near the hem – either directly on the shirt or on masking or fabric tape.
  • The Girl Scout day was the extreme example, requiring us to identify our troop by our specific tie-dye design, but in general, dressing your bunch of kids in the same color helps with the “what were they wearing” part – I can point to another of my kids and say “they look just like this one.”
  • Take a picture of your kids with your digital camera or cell-phone before you head out.
  • Be careful about putting your kids name visibly on their clothes.  Some lost-child experts and police warn against this because it could give potential predators the in that they need, being able to say “hey, Susie, I’m your mom’s friend and she wants me to bring you to her over there”.  My Girl Scouts thought it would be cute to put their names on their shirts and I agreed, but then reconsidered and decided not to.  Too bad you’ve got to think like a bad guy sometimes.

Oh – and don’t forget your comfy walking shoes, whether sneakers or sandals.

Enjoy the festivals!

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