Camping with My Kids & A Whole Bunch of Jam Bands – Kveller
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Camping with My Kids & A Whole Bunch of Jam Bands

Earlier this year, I cooked up a plan for my family to camp out at Mountain Jam, a weekend-long music festival. My husband and I love live jam band music–it is one of the experiences which bonded us in our early days together. But family life is busy, and we don’t go to many shows. Our children knew about our passion for music and for outdoorsy fun. So, in June, with all three kids finally potty trained, we headed for Hunter Mountain Ski Resort with the whole family.

I was not sure how we would manage to keep the crew happy while roughing it on the mountain with thousands of hipped-out music lovers. Even the expense was hard to justify; a quick calculation revealed that suspending our housecleaning help could cover the cost. I was prepared to mop and scrub for a few months if my family was willing to join the jam!

En route to the Catskills, my husband proclaimed the perfect policy: “All fun and no kvetching.” Hours later, I was tossing and turning on a thin crash pad while fierce rainstorms were beating down our tent’s rainfly. While the kids slept cozily in their sleeping bags, my neck was sore, toes were cold, and I was not a happy camper. Could I hack it?

Mountain Jam has a family-friendly reputation, and it exceeded expectations. Aside from its great lineup of music including Steve Winwood, ?uestlove, and Warren Haynes, there were practical reasons to consider. The mild mountain weather of early June made for a very enjoyable climate. The natural setting enabled the kids to explore the outdoors during downtime. Our family camping area was quiet and clean. The kids’ activity tent hosted crafts, face-painting, and puppet shows, among other things. The small side stage had child-friendly bands playing during the day.

At the main stage, we joined the clowns up the mountain at the Karma Wash, a rainbowy pvc-pipe human carwash-like structure offering a “B-Rushless” experience during the shows. This was a saving grace, since our children assisted the adults with props including spray bottles, hula hoops, temporary tattoos, and rubber chickens as festival-goers passed through the contraption. It was one step away from shlugging kapores.

Despite Mountain Jam’s friendly environment, there were some harsh edges. My daughter complained about the foul language heard among festival-goers. We had to get a special note to officially bring in our children’s snacks to the venue itself (though our seasoned jam-goers brushed that off and showed me how to safely hide the snacks at the bottom of their backpacks). And there was the port-a-potty issue: my preschooler simply wouldn’t go. Lucky for us, the mountain’s ski lodge had real flush toilets.  This made all the difference in the world, and I was happy to shlep my youngest jammer there at all hours.

“Loud, fun, and we’re going again next year.” That’s what my children said when I asked for their feedback. Many friends asked how we managed the camping with three kids in tow. The best explanation I can muster is that my husband has tremendous patience and my children were open to a good time. Sure, it would have been cushier in a nearby condo rental, but that wasn’t an option for us. The good music, family fun, and great vibes made up for the imperfect sleeping situation and other minor annoyances. In jam band parlance, we didn’t just rage the scene: we raged it proper.

Three months without cleaning help was worth it! We had our mountain fun, a lovely Shabbat culminating in a memorable havdalah with wonderful friends, and minimal kvetching. Now I can have a respite from scrubbing the toilets, and will continue jamming in the suburbs. And next year mama sleeps on an air mattress.

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