The annual Festival for the Eno, started back in 1980, returns next week with plenty to keep kids and families engaged, entertained and educated during the July 4 holiday.
This long-running festival has been a favorite for parents for generations here in the Triangle. This year, popular activities and performers return. The festival, at West Point on the Eno City Park at 5101 N. Roxboro Rd., also is bringing in some new activities too. Because July 4 lands on a Wednesday, the event is set for July 4, July 7 and July 8 this year.
"There's a lot of variety," said Rebecca Conley, the festival's assistant coordinator. "There's a lot of educational opportunities, but they are all fun. ... There's a lot going on and it's all healthy and fun with the goal of preserving the river."
A big change: Festival organizers have moved the River Stage, usually really sunny and hot, to a shady spot in the same field. The move means that there is now a shady stage option for people who want to get out of the heat.
Another big change: Kids 12 and under are admitted for free as usual. But there is now a special teen ticket for kids ages 13 to 17. They now get in for $10 instead of the $15 adult ticket price.
Conley said the festival tends to get younger families. The new ticket price is an attempt to reach out to families with older kids, who might have stopped coming once their children hit the teen years.
"We were looking at how to make it affordable for families because it's such a tough economic climate for everybody," she said.
The festival's Eno Education for Kids, called the EEK area, returns with activities and games for kids, including a scavenger hunt on the festival grounds, sand sculptures, fossil digging, crafts, a hands-on clay area and more. The area is a perfect place for wading in the water and discovering aquatic creatures.
The festival also features multiple stages, canoeing, craft vendors, food, a climbing wall and much more. If you're getting hot, don't miss the tent with watermelon and the Way Cool Spot tent, where you'll get sprayed with water to cool off.
Before you go or when you get there, be sure to check out the festival schedule so you can map out your visit. Among the many activities and events, Conley recommends some of these for kids and families:
- At 3 p.m., July 7, the River Stage will have a Rowdy Square Dance, a simplified version of the dancing you might remember from gym class. Conley says the music is really simple, there's gender neutral calling and the dance steps are easy to pick up.
- SEEDS, a non-profit educational community garden in Durham, will focus on bee health. There will be a pollinator game and workshop. Kids can make a seed bomb, which they can take home and "plant" by throwing in the yard.
- The American Chemical Society will have a kid-friendly demonstration on green chemistry, sustainable energy and water quality.
- High Strung Guitars and Violins will bring back its instrument petting zoo, a popular stop for families. It also will have more workshops about instruments this year.
- The Paperhand Puppet Intervention will lead a parade at 1 p.m., July 4.
- The African American Dance Ensemble, clogging workshop, John Dee Holeman and Skedaddle are family favorites, Conley said. At 12:15 p.m., July 4, Holeman's set will include young dancers from the North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble.
As far as the details: To get to the festival, it's best to park at Durham County Stadium and take the free, air conditioned shuttle (strollers are allowed on the shuttle). You're also welcome to bring coolers (just no alcohol).
For all the details, check the festival's website.