So, it turns out that Ben & Jerry’s Festival is another one of those things which is actually less fun with a toddler. Another shocker! The lazing around on picnic blankets becomes charging around other people’s picnic blankets. The 8 scoops of ice-cream, enjoyed at leisure become the 5 you can sneak while he’s not looking. And the pogoing to your favourite early 90s band becomes Gary Numan, somewhere over there, singing “Cars”. I think. I can’t quite hear it over the sound of sugar-induced tantruming.
Ben and Jerry’s really is the best festival ever. We went to the very first one, in 2005ish, and every subsequent one except for a blip in 2009 (why were we so busy that summer? I don’t quite remember). Over the years, it has got busier and more expensive and the queues have got longer but still, it’s an absolute bargain. This year was £17.00 for a couple of decent bands, some free fairground rides and all the ice-cream you can eat. Festivalkate was slightly mourning not going on the Saturday (Ash, Ocean Colour Scene, Fun Loving Criminals) rather than Sunday (Maximo Park, Gary Numan) but honestly, Roo kept me busy enough on the day that it didn’t really matter who was playing. The bands are a kinda added extra at B&Js. It’s all about the ice-cream.
Incidentally, we only stubbornly go on the Sunday because – back in the day – there was no Saturday. It was Sundae on the Common – get it? – and now it’s a matter of principle. Yes, we choose a fairly lame pun over some decent bands. But it’s our pun. Anyway, both mine and Nathan’s bosses were going on the Saturday, so it may have been for the best (one sticky toddler encounter later, you suddenly find your bosses turning against you….)
So, what was for toddlers who are only mildly bothered by ice-cream? Well, funnily enough, the biggest draw for Roo was the animal corner with animals from Vauxhall City Farm. Yes, that’s right. Vauxhall City Farm. The one that is five minutes from our house, with the animals he could see Every.Fricking.Day if he wanted to. For free. Still, it was a great distraction from the carousel, which inspired both awe and distress in him every time he saw it. Awe because he realllly wanted to go on it. Distress because he didn’t understand that to get on it, he had to join that realllly long queue. Climbing through the railings was not an option. Even if you fit through (he did). We ended up taking him on it twice. He screamed and kicked whilst queuing both times and screamed straight through the ride once (I think he’d got a bit confused by that point and didn’t know what he wanted)
In conclusion – free carousel= good. Long queue = bad. Distracting animals = good. Oh look, Moo-Cow!
What else? There was also the reggae tent, with a sand pit (well, coconut boules pitch but who were they fooling? Not the toddlers building sandcastles) and a steel band that Roo liked to dance to. The helter skelter and swing boats, both of which I was too wussy to take him on (he is probably a touch little still). Various craft-sy stalls, which we didn’t even get round to looking at. The air guitar stage – ditto. Although Nathan may have been avoiding it, following his great Air Guitar Injury of 2008 (Sweet Child of Mine – Kate doing “the windmill” – Failing to notice Nathan behind her – A neat smack to the jaw – A bitten tongue and blood everywhere). Basically, lots to do and see that we just didn’t get to. I didn’t even take a photo of Roo with one of the many people dressed as cows…but here’s a photo of him with a real cow to compensate.
VERDICT: It actually is a fun day out for all the family. Just expect your toddler to be well over-stimulated by the noise, crowds, bright colours and..well, sugar. They will run around like a mad thing then at some point dissolve into a tantrummy, ice-creamy mess with the overwhelmingness of it all. So, just the same as any other day really.