It's July 4 weekend, which means it's time for the Festival for the Eno.
The long-running festival at West Point on the Eno Park in Durham runs Saturday through Monday this year from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. It's a popular stop for families. But I always have a better time at big festivals like this if I go with a plan ... especially when I'm bringing the kids.
So here are some tips and things to consider as you plan your visit. Feel free to add more favorites if you're a long-time fan of the festival!
1. Park where you're supposed to. West Point on the Eno Park is on North Roxboro Road in Durham. But there is only limited parking at the park for performers and the disabled. So plan to park for free at the Durham County Stadium, 2700 N. Duke St., and hop on one of the free, air-conditioned shuttle bus, which will take you to the festival. Buses run from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. each day. If you park your car at the Riverview Shopping Center across from the park, you could risk towing.
2. Strollers and coolers are allowed on the buses. So feel free to lug the stroller (just know that it's a grassy and/or gravel surface at the park) and a lunch and drinks if you want (though there are plenty of concessions from corn dogs to international food and the always popular watermelon slice tent). Alcohol is not allowed at the park.
3. Get there early. The forecast for this weekend doesn't look too bad with temperatures in the 80s. But it's still going to get sticky. Get there early and you'll beat the heat and some of the crowds too.
4. Check out the live performances. People of all ages will love the majority of performers on the festival's various stages, but there are a few that kids especially will enjoy. The highlights: Emmy Award winning Farmer Jason is scheduled to perform all three days. (He'll also perform as his original identity, Jason Ringenberg, the Nashville singer-songwriter and alt-country, cow-punk pioneer). Triangle favorites the Sandbox Band and Baron Von Rumblebuss are scheduled for Saturday. Check the schedule when you get there for exact performance times.
Kathy Lee, the Eno River Association's education director, also tells me that the African American Dance Ensemble and Apple Chill Cloggers' performances are very interactive and family favorites.
5. Do some crafts, learn some stuff. You'll find lots of crafts, exhibitors and demonstrations. Many are geared toward kids. Highlights include: Writer/illustrator Bob Palmatier will offer a workshop for kids who want to write and illustrate their own stories. Frog Hollow Boat Rentals will offer canoe and kayak demos and rentals. E.E.E.K.! (that's Eno Environmental Education for Kids) will offer all kinds of activities by the river and lessons about aquatic life. Face painting is $1. Local potters are volunteering to help kids make their own objects out of clay. And Carolina Coops will have some backyard chickens on hand. Sandy Feet will be building one of their popular sand sculptures with a sandbox for kids to play in too. And a variety of local agencies and museums will be on hand with activities for kids including N.C. State Parks, the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, the Piedmont Wildlife Center and more. For specific locations, check the program when you get to the festival.
6. Stay cool. The popular Way Cool Spot is back in the festival's meadow area and offers a cold water mist. But the best thing about the festival is it's right near a river. Lee encourages people to bring their bathing suits.
"Plan your day so you have time to do all the activities and then you can just go chill in the river," Lee tells me. "That's my strategy."
Tickets are $13 in advance and $15 at the gate. Kids 12 and under get in free. For all the details and to find out how to buy tickets in advance, check the website.