This past week, I had three acquaintances ask me about my plans for the weekend, and each, upon me telling them of my plans to take my four-year-old, Jackson, to the Rock Island District’s YaMaka My Weekend, all expressed surprise at my choice.
“Why would you do that? Isn’t that just a bunch of drunks standing around drinking and listening to Jimmy Buffett?” one of them said.
I’m not quite sure where YaMaka got the reputation as a lower grade Parrothead festival, but allow me to disabuse you of the notion, as I did each of my acquaintances who asked.
YaMaka is like any outdoor festival, whether at the District or elsewhere – there is a time and place for the kiddies to be around, and a time and place when it is best they’re at home.
And as with all outdoor festivals, the time for the adults is later in the evening, and the time for the kiddies is during the day.
During my bachelor days, I rarely showed up at YaMaka before the sunset. However, now that I’m a Dad, I rarely see YaMaka beyond the sunset. But that’s the beauty of a great outdoor event – it offers something for everyone, making it a true family event, offering true family fun. It’s got great activities and cool culture for the whole family during the daytime hours, and when the night rolls in, adults can come down, have a couple of beverages and enjoy some excellent reggae. It’s all good.
And it was all good when Jackson and I checked out the festival this past weekend, as we have for the past four years of his life – during the day.
One of the first things we did was to stroll through the marketplace and pick up some food (a delicious red beans and rice with jerk chicken) and a couple of large rasta lemonades (like regular lemonade, only less tart and more sweet and with a consistency similar to papaya juice). As always, the food is one of the highlights of YaMaka, as there’s a tasty array of island themed dishes to nosh, alongside typical fest fare like corn dogs and funnel cakes.
With full bellies and still plenty of beverage left, we took in the rest of the fest, walking around through the marketplace areas selling everything from t-shirts to bracelets to jewelry. We chatted up the various people dressed as pirates, and Jackson got some “gold doubloons” from them. We watched a steel drum band, and Jackson got to take a spot on stage, getting a little impromptu drum lesson and having the chance to pound the percussion for a while along with the band – which he enjoyed immensely. And, of course, we checked out the music on the main stages.
YaMaka offers a cool tropical blend of tunes throughout the day, mostly traditional reggae, but also a few bands with a progressive tint, albeit retaining the island music theme. The kids love it, bopping their heads to the dub beat and dancing to the exotic melodies. And it’s a fun way to introduce kids not only to live music, but different beats and types of tunes.
I would be remiss in mentioning the attraction my son enjoyed most at the festival, which is one that it would seem the majority of the kids likewise found a highlight – the giant sandbox.
A ton of kids seemed to get a big kick out of the massive sandbox, featuring an array of plastic buckets and toys. Children played and laughed and bopped around on the impromptu beach as the island hymns drifted in the air and parents hung around the periphery, watching the young-uns have a great time.
And, in the end, that’s what it’s all about – having a good time. And, contrary to mistaken belief, YaMaka offers that for everyone.
When all was said and done, and we were leaving the festival as the sun was dropping in the sky, Jackson was beaming at a terrific time, and I left thinking about both the great times I’d had as a bachelor, and the awesome times I’ve had as a Dad sharing the event with my son.
You’ll have just as good a time as well – at YaMaka, or any of the District festivals.
YaMaka My Weekend takes place the second weekend of August. Mark your calendars for 2013, and for details on all the Rock Island District festival events, check out www.ridistrict.com.