Phew, it’s taken a while to get round to writing up our Geronimo Festival experience. I’d spotted the festival last year but couldn’t make it – but this year arranged to go and visit my best friend in Manchester, and then take her boy and N to Geronimo. I was horrified at the cost of tickets (£20 each, with the annoying £1.50+ per ticket Ticketmaster booking costs on top!), but decided it was worth it for a full day of activities aimed at children.
I had been worried after seeing all the complaints about the Leeds Geronimo, but thankfully the weather was hot and sunny which was always going to make it a lot better to enjoy a day out. We arrived early to ensure we weren’t parked miles away, although there was still a fair walk for little legs. It did mean we got to see some of the Roald Dahl exhibition pieces on the walk. I’m just introducing N to Roald Dahl books now so it was a shame we didn’t have more time in Manchester to see the whole trail.
Even at 10am getting in was busy, but the ticket checking and wristband handing out was efficient. We were able to write on phone numbers (although next time I’ll write it afterwards so it’s not half hidden by multiple wrapping around little wrists) which is something I always forget to do. Once in we took photos of the show times at the various stages, then headed off to check out what was going on.
The bonus of arriving before all the crowds is that you get to speak to stall holders and have the choice of crafts in the craft tent. The boys made some Fantastic Mr Fox masks, pimped up some toy ducks (great idea for an art party) and the mooched looking at the other crafts on offer.
We did try going back later but found there wasn’t space for us, or there were set times for activities so we’d missed our opportunity to join. I found this was a problem throughout the day. A lot of the tents had number limits for the activities, in particular those for 5 years and upwards, so most of the time tent doors were closed off because they were full or the session had started.
There were no programmes or maps available – although I cheekily asked a staff member if I could have one of theirs. I think it’s madness not handing them out to people – or they should at least tell people to take photos of the map and timetable at the entrance. Otherwise you needed to do an initial recce round the entire site to check out times for the activities you wanted to do….and then arrive early.
Queues were a problem all day once the main stage performances started and the crowds started arriving. We queued for a while for the bouncy castles but then N decided he didn’t want to go on them so we left my friend in the queue while we went off to see Swashbuckle. N was a bit disappointed to see just Cook and Line. He was expecting to see children doing the jewel hunt in a replica of the tv show. But he did chuckle away.
We watched Andy Day on stage talking about the dinosaurs and leading some roaring and singing audience participation. This went down well with everything (including a lot of adults sat near us), and I was pleased to see N joining in, in between eating his picnic lunch. There were a lot of sound issues with mics cutting out, so there was some time during 2 shows we couldn’t hear anything. This seemed to be sorted in time for Justin Fletcher later on in the day which was the only other show we watched.
Despite the popularity of the stage, especially for the Cbeebies performers, there was plenty of room to set out our picnic blanket and relax. We had a reasonable view from up on the hilly area, so it was well thought out for visibility for children.
After lunch my godson wanted to go on the helter skelter so we left them to queue while we checked out the mountain bikers jumping off cars (N wasn’t interested) and then watched The Imps motorcycle display team. The Imps because they’re all children starting at age 5! N loved this display, and we even had to go back later to watch a bit of it.
We also watched the unicorn and knights display. Because we love a bit of medieval fighting and horse-riding.
There was certainly plenty of options to watch and we could happily have sat and watched more if there hadn’t been other things to see.
We had a false start in the children’s harp session where kids were learning to play along to a song. N decided he wanted to try, then got panicked when it was his turn saying ‘I don’t know what to do, I don’t want to do it because I don’t know how’. Me placating him explaining I didn’t know either but the lady was going to teach all the children, didn’t help. It drives me nuts when he says he wants to do something then worries about it and pulls out for no reason. I do wish he’d have more confidence at trying new things sometimes.
He didn’t want to see the animals area, and we didn’t get round to the woodland activities which I’d have liked to have seen. But there were plenty of roving characters to see, including roaming musicians, bird and giraffe puppets.
We’d managed to fall upon the water zone – not particularly well advertised as a drinking water point, just hand washing next to the toilets – in fact my friend hadn’t realised it was drinking water and found that none of the food and drink stands had water left to buy – she ended up with some sparkling water as the only alternative, It was so warm, ice creams were essential for us…although I wish they hadn’t been because 50 minutes in an ice cream queue was insane. We heard a later mention that there were 11,000 people at the festival, but 2 ice cream vans that we spotted were not enough. And it looked like food queues were nuts too. They could have doubled up on ice cream vans in case of good weather, and they’d have probably had more sales because the queues wouldn’t have put people off.
Luckily N is really good at waiting and behaving himself. I suggested he go off and investigate one of the music tents we could see from the queue, but he wouldn’t go on his own so stood with me all that time. The person behind me was so impressed with him waiting patiently for so long that she complimented me on his behaviour. I was so chuffed about that. Of course, an ice cream at the end of it did help.
While we felt like we saw a lot, there was a lot we didn’t see thanks to queues (I dread to think what time the circus queue started because 30 minutes before a show it was huge). And areas we didn’t really reach. I think if there price was right, it would be worth doing both days then you can get there early and stay late to make the most of it without rushing round.
As we left we were asked for feedback from a lovely guy who made N a little paper hat for his duck while us adults filled out the forms. Our thoughts were that we wouldn’t go back. We had a great time (my friend less so because my godson was being a bit of a whinger all day), but a lot of that was the weather. It would have been a disaster in rain because while there were tents, there wasn’t much room and enough to do for everyone in the sun, let alone if everyone wanted shelter.
- The cleanliness and set up of the site. It was colourful and tidy, and little litter around considering lots of people picnicking
- The site was a good size
- The types of activities were varied and covered a range of ages from under 3s to primary school age
- The toilets. There were plenty of them and were the only thing we didn’t queue for
- Access and traffic getting to and from the festival. Tatton is used to putting on these events and we didn’t have to queue for ages to get in
- Seeing N standing up and joining in with the stage show instructions and dancing. It’s not something he’s ever wanted to do before but he loved it.
- Timetables or lack of them. Apart from the arena and main stage, until you arrived somewhere, there was no way of knowing what was on and what times. Maybe they should include a map and timetable, plus specific activities online so you could print them off beforehand, or download onto phones. And maybe activities should have the ability to pick up times tickets for later slots if you don’t make a previous one.
- Sound system problems – while there are always things that go wrong, it was a long time before it got sorted out in the first show we were watching. But the issue happened again in another show. It was a shame because kids don’t understand when things go wrong, and given the organisers had last year’s experience, and that in Leeds where I also understand there were issues, it maybe could have been solved quicker. The sound when it did work wasn’t always the clearest up on the hill either. At other festivals we’ve been to there have been speakers around the edge of the arena area so it’s clear and loud from every angle.
- The queues. Every ride, most activities, food, everything meant queuing. While the site didn’t feel overly full, it felt like they needed duplicates of activities to reduce the queues. So more bouncy castles, more ice cream vans, more food vans. Some people said it felt like the amount of activities that a normal family festival would put on for children but this one was all meant to be for children
All in all we did have a good day. The children loved it despite the queues, and although we didn’t get round everywhere I wanted to see, we had a full day out in the sun with friends (most of the time apart from queuing for different things) having fun.
Did you go? How did you find it? What other children friendly festivals would you recommend?
Why not take a look at these similar posts.