During the Memorial Day Weekend, I attended the annual Dance Africa Bazaar held in Brooklyn, New York. This is a 3-day event that is held outdoors in front of the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The event is highly energetic, fragranced with grilled cuisines, adorned with creative merchandise presented by vendors, many whom travel from across state lines. It draws a large crowd of colorful creative or curious participants that appreciate the rich African culture.
I have attended Dance Africa for three years in a row; however, this year was particularly special because I was now attending the outdoor festival with my five-month-old baby.
Picture this: I arrive at the festival, baby stroller and all, trying to navigate and maneuver my way through the thick of the crowd. It was so crowded that I felt like I was walking and/or strolling with baby at three paces per minute. It would have been fine because it was slow enough for me to browse the vendor booths. However, due to cautionary reasons, my eyes were focused on the ground, trying to make sure I did not run into the back of the ankles of the innocent people in front of me. I would occasionally look up to catch the view of a passing stroller, wondering if that baby's parent was feeling the same frustrations.
After a couple of apologies, I was growing tired of my failed attempts at saving the back of ankles, and decided to leave the festival. I was disappointed because I only lasted about 20 minutes at the festival. I left feeling defeated.
Summer time is my favorite time of the year in New York City! It is open season for the avid festivalgoers, whether it is a neighborhood, food or music festival. One can catch their favorite music performers at no cost, at events such as Summer Stage. If you are really feeling ambitious try waking up at the crack of dawn to attend concerts like Good Morning America's Summer Concert Series and make it just in time for your 10:30 morning meeting at work.
Determination led me back to Dance Africa on day two. This time I left the stroller and just decided to use the infant carrier. I was starting to feel like my old festival going self. My arms were free to browse and pick up items. I could comfortably walk around with the baby literally within arms reach. After three hours of walking around with 16 pounds of baby weight, not including the additional 15 pounds post-partum weight, I headed home feeling both exhausted and satisfied.
As summer approaches and the crowded festivals unfold, here are 7 suggestions for on how you can keep your summer in the city swag, while attending a festival with your little one:
1) Plan Ahead. Spontaneity is welcomed, but not here. Decide the mode of transportation whether it is by automobile, public transit, taxi, etc. If you are traveling by privately owned vehicle, try to research nearby parking, fill up with gas the day before the outing. In New York City, surprisingly, every MTA station is not handicap accessible, so staking out the stations with elevator access would be wise. Honestly, you will probably find yourself or a helpful stranger carrying the stroller up or down the flight of stairs.
2) Stroll Strong. Owning a vehicle is not necessary in New York City, but owning a functional stroller built for city is a priority. Do your research.
3) Carry Baby. Carriers are great for getting through the crowds, however, I would recommend taking a sit down break, to help alleviate the pressure of caring extra cute and cuddly baby weight. I know you would not try this but do not order the hot roasted corn on the cob and attempt to eat it over your baby's head.
4) Take the Village. Recruit your older children, friends or family to join you. They would more than likely be glad to help you with the baby.
5) Choose Wisely. Be certain that the festival is family-friendly. Although public, some festivals may be a little too risky.
6) Keep it Light. If a festival is being held on multiple days, it may be best to attend on the last day, which usually has a lighter crowd. Try to avoid the first day or attend early in the day as possible.
7) Check It Off. Develop a baby travel tool kit and always have it ready for travel with baby. Do not forget to include the hand sanitizer, sunscreen for baby and bug spray for those park visits.
Whatever you do, keep your cool, keep your swag and enjoy your time outdoors with your baby!