WOOHOO!!! Friend Fest at Amish Acres in Nappanee, IN is awesomesauce! I know there are LOTS of music festivals out there but the folks at WFRN did their homework and have created the most family-friendly Christian music event I have been to or read about. That this was just their second year is even more impressive. “What makes it so family-friendly?” you are wondering (I just know you are). Money, for one thing. Families want to take their families to worship with these A-MA-ZING bands but not everyone can afford all that a music festival entails, especially big families. You are usually nickeled and dimed for any and all amenities.
First, the biggie for us was food, if you want to call that an amenity. Friend Fest allows food to be brought in! I’ve not been to a festival that allowed you to bring food in. A friend just informed this weekend that another popular festival recently banned even eating in the parking lot. Say wha? No tailgating? Good grief… Food was available for purchase at Friend Fest, there was a water tent at the back of the field (only a buck a bottle!), snow cones and ice cream on a hot day were perfect (they even had vendors walking through the crowd selling ice cream out of a cooler). There was no lack of sweet, cold stuff. BUT we brought 9 kids with us. Purchasing food for 11 people is not cheap…even when buying cheap food. It adds up, dontcha know? We were able to keep our crew hydrated and nourished all day without paying out the wazoo. That we didn’t purchase food from Amish Acres didn’t seem to hurt their business; the food lines stayed busy and we saw plenty of folks munching on their yums. Meanwhile, our clan kept busy snacking on Capri Suns, strawberries, Cloud Cakes and a variety of other items we rarely indulge in then we dined on Pulled BBQ Pork, BBQ Beans and Sweet n Sour Broccoli Slaw. It’s nice having catering equipment to keep our vittles hot. 🙂 Did we make folks around us jealous? Maybe just a little. 🙂 That being said, we saved a fortune!
Secondly, there was no additional charge for the Kids Zone. There was even a Children’s Stage that featured juggling, an illusionist, illusions, music, puppetry and clowning around. Of course, the Bounc House area is a kid’s favorite part of the festival. I was a little disturbed, though, by the Gator Hide-and-Slide. The kids climb up into the gator’s mouth,
bounce around inside
then come out the back end.
When I went to take pics of my lovely children exiting the inflatable reptile, I didn’t find a slide as expected, I found a slit. I said, “Oh, unt uh…” Craig said, “Yep. That’s where they come out.” No no no…that’s messed up. I told my Lenae that the designer of said gator must not have liked kids. She quickly replied, “Or really likes them and knows how kids think. What kid wouldn’t love to say they were pooped out of an alligator?” She has a point.
Thirdly, free parking. Nuff said.
Fourthly, the Coffee House Stage. If you had attended Friend Fest and wanted to hear some other musicians and Break-Out Sessions with some of the Main Stage artists while using the, again, FREE Wi-Fi and drinking your gourmet coffee, this was the place for you.
#5 The Venue: Amish Acres is a fantastic location for an event like this! It’s clean, it’s lovely, it’s big! It’s also just 5 minutes away from Play-Mor Campground which means a lot to those of us who prefer “roughing it” in an air-conditioned camper. Primitive camping is available at Fountain Acres but that’s not roughing it to me. That’s dying a slow death of humidity and allergies. The only thing I would change is placing a canopy section in the rear for those who don’t want to melt especially those with children, “older” folks and those wearing walking casts whose legs get over heated…not that I know anyone like that.
Observe the hot children covered in 3 bottles of sunblock.
Sixthly, yes there’s more…The staff and volunteers were incredible friendly from the time you pull in to park. Some of the crazy antics of those directing parking had us smiling from ear to ear. Everyone was eager to assist, hospitable and, you could tell, happy to be there serving.
SEVEN: stewardship. I was tickled to read the following in the program: “It takes 3-4 years for a festival of this magnitude to sustain itself. Currently, ticket sales, sponsors and partners cover just 80% of the festival’s total expenses. We are almost there, yet it is still not quite enough.” 80% and it’s just the second year! They accomplished this without charging for parking, the Kids Zone, and every other little thing and without forcing folks to purchase their food. Kudos! As soon as I’m able, I hope to become a Friend Fest Partner. We need to sell more cheesecake.
Eight: Enough space for Ultimate Frisbee. The kids did mention that Frisbee to Building 429 made them feel like they were in a movie or a music video, LOL! They rawked, incidentally.
Nine: Friends. We drove 4 hours from home and ran into several friends. Many hugs were shared and, of course, Frisbee. It really was a Friend Fest! (Cheesy, I know).
And last, but not least, the music. We went Friday to see some of our favorites: Carrollton, Rhett Walker Band, For King and Country, Big Daddy Weave, Building 429 and Matthew West. If we had gone Saturday, we would have enjoyed OBB, Hyland, Moriah Peters, Finding Favour, Chris August, Kari Jobe, Jamie Grace, the Peter Furler Band and TobyMac. We opted for some R&R with the kiddos at the campground. That aside, the weekend held a high-caliber line-up that did not disappoint. I CANNOT wait to hear next year’s line-up!!!
(What? No pics from the bands?! That’s another post….;) )
Have you been to a music festival that was as family/pocketbook-friendly as this one? Let us all know!
What’s not shared is lost,