Tuesday 3 May 2016

Geronimo Festival 2016 Monday at Harewood House Review

The Geronimo Festival is a festival especially for families with children aged 2-12. Last year it ran for 2 days at Tatton Park, and was so successful that this year they added 2 more dates at Harewood House in Leeds. We were invited along to review on the second day.

We're festival veterans, and I have been taking children with me for about 14 years. The weather is horrific for May, biting cold and wet, so we packed wellies, raincoats and extra socks. We also know food can be an issue, so we took sausage rolls, crisps and drinks. Aside from that, we took our 6 and 7 year old boys.

The weather was at it's worst when we arrived and the flat site was very windy. We had chance to have a quick look at the row of stalls and shops running parallel to the front of Harewood House itself and then the rain really hit.

We ran past the 3ft And Under Zone and the Adrenaline Zone, and some awesome off-ground under-cover picnic tables, and nipped into Crocodile Joe's tent to escape...

Crocodile Joe is an expert in all things slithery and snappy, and showed the boys lizards and a snake, which they both were really delighted to be able to hold - and the first thing they said is what everyone says when they first touch a snake I think "It's not slippery".

That turned out to be by far the worst of the weather, and although the sky stayed grey most of the day, it only drizzled a few times. We caught the Jousting, which was very good - and a really nice touch to go around the crowd clapping hands with children at the end.

We also caught the Royal Signals White Helmets Motorcycle Display Team - who thrilled every child in the crowd with the size of their fire as much as their acrobatics on bikes. Always impressive, and thankfully none of the pyramids collapsed.

There were clearly fewer people than anticipated on the Monday, and the ground had coped incredibly well with the previous day's traffic and weather. A thin veneer of mud over hard ground, not slippy and very few puddles. Not a lot of green though...

Giant bubbles, whales and flowers, and the main stage - where we caught Andy Day and Mr Bloom. The weather may not have been glorious, but the artists were certainly full of energy and got the crowd really involved.

 Next the Fairground Rides - a turn on the Carousel, and my boys' first go on both Helter Skelter and the Teacups - my 7 year old shouting "It's going faster" on every turn and it really wasn't...

There were loads of different animals on show and we spent quite a while with the ferrets and owls. The gentlemen there were really lovely with the boys, answering all their daft questions and letting them safely and carefully stroke their livestock.

The Giant Tortoises were advertised as free, but it did clearly say £2 per person to go into the enclosure. My boys were happy just looking and sneaking a feel of a shell as one of the 150 year olds ambled past. 

There were acts and costumed performers dotted all around the site and even walking among the crowd. My boys were particularly taken with a slackline balancing violinist. He was good. It's only when you stop and think for a moment that you appreciate the skills involved. I always wonder in cases like these, was he a violinist first?

My boys both said the best part of the whole festival for them was the hammocks. Such a simple thing, but they were brilliant. A circle of suspended children swinging and giggling, it was a lovely area to spend half an hour.

And we bumped into the Five Adventurers who were playing in the hammock next door to us. 

Then we caught the Pirate Trapeze show. The wind was picking up by now, so it was maybe a little more exciting than it usually is. I think their smiles at the end were especially huge...

A very polite handshake greeting from a couple of the boy's favourites. They love Star Wars, and Kylo Ren is apparently the hero/anti-hero of most 6 or 7 year old boys these days.

The sun came out in the mid afternoon, and it got a lot warmer. Blue skies had everyone dancing at the main stage and singing along with Luke And Emma from the TV show Hi-5.

Then we went off to the woods. My 6 year old would have been happy here all day. Lots of activities were set up including Pant-Flinging and Den-Making, and a Wooden Orchestra.

There were also a series of carefully placed nets so that children could climb high among the trees. Numbers were limited by timed entry, and there was lots of unobtrusive supervision.

It was a beautiful way to end the day, watching the children doing brave stuff and challenging themselves physically and mentally.  We were all worn out, and we really hadn't covered even 1/3 of the festival activities.

Our experience of the Geronimo Festival was a great day. My boys both thanked me this morning for taking them and enthused about the hammocks and the bubbles and various other things. We drove straight on site, we never had to queue for long, plenty of toilets and the weather was fine, and all of the staff and performers were lovely. 

There were a couple of niggles -  no maps and no timetables meant we had no idea what was happening where and when, although there were loudspeaker announcements. Food and drink was expensive. £2.80 for tiny portion of chips and £2.50 for a coffee meant our £15 budget didn't get us very much, although we did find ice lollies for under £1.50 each.


You would have to have been living under a rock to have missed the negative feedback after the first day on Sunday. It's clear something went very wrong with entry to the site, the almost freezing cold May weather caught a lot of families with youngsters out and for a lot of people fun did not happen. However that wasn't true for everyone. A friend of mine took her two pre-school boys and this is what she wrote on Facebook that night, which she is more than happy for me to share with you:

Once you've been to a couple of festivals where you've stood in the rain for an hour or 5 with freezing feet and sodden children, you begin to realise a pocket full of 5p carrier bags and a pack of baby wipes can be the difference between standing up all day or getting a sit down and some lunch.

I have had several pretty horrible festival experiences, and the UK weather generally always plays a part, but I would urge anyone to give it another shot because you get better at it with experience. Each disaster means you're ready for it next time, and you do reach a point you're pretty much bombproof. Taking kids to festivals creates memories that last forever. I will never forget my oldest son determinedly staying awake past midnight to see Bill Bailey, my 7 year old bounding through his first slopping puddle, and nor will I ever forget my now 16 year old daughter dancing and singing to Basement Jaxx singing Red Alert at Glastonbury....

We were given free entry to Geronimo to review.


  1. IT sounds like a great day, despite the good old British weather! I hope they take on board the negative comments to make improvements for next year but if you are going somewhere outdoors at this time of year you have to be prepared for any weather!

    1. As far as I can see they were attempting to address as much as they could even from before we arrived on Monday - and everyone was asked to give feedback as they left. Disasters happen, it's what you do next that counts :)
      And yes - it was a great day! :)

  2. It sounds and looks like you all had a great day, despite our wonderful weather. We went to a similar event down south a couple of years ago, which Monkey loved. I have to say £2.50 for a coffee at an event round here would be the norm. Love the look of those hammocks.

    1. It's terrible for Northerners Mary - tea was £1.50, and although it was lovely, I'm cheap when it comes to coffee and £2.50 a cup was wasted on me :D
      My kids are desperate for a hammock now :D

  3. This is a really well balanced review. We went to a different outdoor festival that weekend and we were well prepared for the weather. It's not much fun stood in a muddy field in the hail, but we'd dressed for it and had taken a huge brolly, wellies and raincoats as well as a folding chair to sit on. As a parent I always have snacks about my person, but packed a picnic and just bought a few things we fancied whilst we were there. There were clean, dry clothes and shoes in the car to change into for the drive home if need be and towels and blankets waiting if we needed a warm.

    We're off to Tatton Park Geronimo in a few weeks and I'll be making similar preparations, but I'm hoping at the very least it won't hail :)

    1. We all want it to be a great day, and expectations and excitement are so high that when it starts to go wrong you can give up and lose it. Just occasionally the sun shines, the kids are happy playing with a stick for hours and you can lie back and enjoy yourself the whole time, but really that is probably only 5% of your UK festival experience! :D Worth it though. Have a good time at Tatton Park :)


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