In the spring, I applied for a Newport Folk Festival press pass. I planned to write a column about bringing my 1-year-old daughter to the most family-friendly music festival in the country. I would call it: “Mother Folker.”
A few weeks later, I was pleased to see the festival’s media organizer, Jessica Puchli, had dropped me a line. Her email turned out to be a very polite “folk you.” Try again next year, she urged.
We decided to scrounge for tickets anyway. I bought a two-day pass from a friend, and found my husband a single face-value ticket on a Phish message board. Thank heavens for hippies.
In service of this article, with or without Ms. Puchli’s help, I packed up my infant daughter and hit the road early Friday morning. Our first stop was Jamestown, the quaint sister community to Newport. Jamestown is home to James Taylor, Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, and a pastoral park called Fort Getty. We pitched a tent at the latter, and hopped a ferry at the nearby wharf.
If I had any doubts about bringing a baby to Newport Folk Festival, they vanished the moment I stepped off the dock. A volunteer spotted our stroller in the crowd and waved us past the half-mile line to a special entrance with no wait. At the main stage, a designated family tent offered complimentary water, snacks, crafts, and Adirondack chairs, along with an instrument petting zoo where kids could bang on drums and ukuleles.
In other words, I had a clear view of Del Water Gap’s performance to the front, and my daughter’s performance to the rear. She clapped and cheered for Caamp. We both teared up during Maggie Rogers — for me it was the visceral lyrics, and for her, a wet diaper.
At dusk, we headed to “The Quad” to see TikTok troubadour, Noah Kahan. A message on the big screen informed us that Kahan had called out sick, but a suitable replacement would take his place. Two tweens in “Stick Season” tank tops stomped off, heartbroken, and we slid into their spots at the back of the tent.
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At 5:40 p.m., James Taylor stepped onto the stage. My first official concert was a James Taylor show in 1988, when I was only a year old. I felt history repeating itself. There was just one problem — his set fell squarely in the middle of naptime.
During “Something in the Way She Moves,” my girl began to whimper. I wove through the crowd to find a cool place where I could nurse her to sleep and still hear the music. Lo and behold, we found ourselves staked out in the shade of the press tent.
I caught the eye of a striking woman in a heavy denim jumpsuit and hypothesized about what press-pass-worthy publication she must write for. Was it Brooklyn Vegan? Stereogum? Far Out Magazine? Or had I locked eyes with the gatekeeper herself, Jessica Puchli?
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The baby fell asleep immediately. I strapped her to my chest and returned to the tent as James Taylor crooned his final lullaby, “You Can Close Your Eyes.” She took his advice and kept her eyes closed for My Morning Jacket, awaking just in time to see her father waving from the wharf. He had come straight from work to meet our boat.
“How did she do?” he asked.
“Incredible,” I told him.
The next day was easier with two sets of hands. (Except for the fact that I accidentally packed swim diapers, which proved considerably less absorbent than the real thing.) We savored the sounds of Danielle Ponder, Goose, Angel Olsen, Jason Isbell, Jon Batiste and more.
Newport Folk Festival is for families, a fact that plenty of people already seem to know. Ticket holders can bring two children under the age of 10 for free. Perhaps that’s why Jessica Puchli denied my press pass request. I won’t hold it against her, but she certainly hasn’t seen the last of me. The whole family will be back next summer. And, I hope, for many years to come.
Sarah Connell Sanders is an educator, and regular columnist for Worcester Magazine. She welcomes follows on Instagram, sarah_connell.