If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you’ll know that this year we’re ambassadors for Geronimo Family Festival. After much excited anticipation over the last few weeks, we spent a day at Geronimo Leeds on the first day of the festival last weekend.
And being a bank holiday weekend, obviously it poured down!
We knew the day was already sold out, so to avoid the busiest time we tried to arrive for the gates opening at 10am. Unfortunately it took over an hour and a half to cover the last two miles into the venue, which wasn’t great with two super-excited kids in the car. With only one entrance into Harewood House there was inevitably a huge traffic jam; I think another entrance was opened during the morning, hopefully people who arrived later found it quicker to get onto the site.
Once we were in, the huge amount of activities and shows going on made the kids instantly forget the long wait, and they were raring to go. The main stage events had been delayed due to the problems gaining entry; I think this was a very good idea, given that the well-known cbeebies characters appearing were the main attraction for lots of people attending.
There really is so much to see and do at Geronimo – there are twelve themed zones such as ‘Circus’, ‘3ft and under’ and ‘Fairground’, with lots of things going on in each one. It would have been a big help if there had been clearer signage throughout the site, we spent quite a lot of time just getting our bearings. The first thing the kids enjoyed was a donkey ride in the Pasture Zone.
After that we headed for our youngest’s number one choice, the My Little Pony bus. We were met with a very long queue, and after fifteen minutes without moving, we cut our losses and headed off to the show arena to watch some of the open air shows. The White Helmets motorbike display team and the BMX stunt bikes were both fantastic.
Geronimo is aimed at children aged 2-12 years, but I’d say the main age range it appeals to is pre-school, with the majority of activities very well-suited to this age of child. There was still enough to keep our nine year old busy; in particular the Adrenaline zone is aimed at older kids, and because most families attending had younger children with them, this area was pretty much queue-free. I can’t quite believe he did the zip-wire, it was so high!
The weather really was awful, so when the rain got too much for us we headed into one of the tents to have our picnic lunch. There was a lovely music workshop going on, which both kids joined in with. This is what I love about this kind of event; the way you can just stumble across something different and interactive, and get stuck in.
After lunch we headed back outside to check out the fairground zone.
We didn’t really spend much time at the live stage, mainly because it was very hard for the kids to see anything; the stage was quite low, the big screen was located at the other side of the ground, and understandably lots of parents had their children on their shoulders. I think the organisers need to re-think this area for future events, it needs to be much more accessible for the audience.
It was a real shame, but the queues continued to be a problem for us throughout the day. Every attraction had such a long wait – it took us 45 minutes to get a go on the helter skelter for example – which meant we only had time to experience a very small proportion of the huge range of activities on offer. The fact that some attractions had been closed (presumably due to the weather) just made the situation worse. The kids were so excited about having a go at all the fantastic things they could see, and it was hard to make them understand why we couldn’t fit everything in.
We did enjoy our day at Geronimo, but we came away feeling like it could have been so much better. Obviously the organisers can’t do anything about the weather, and had we been on a dry, sunny day it would have been much easier to deal with the queues and the crowds. But I do think the event could have been better planned and managed; simple things like more signage, more staff to manage the queues, and traffic control at the entrance would have made such a difference to our experience. I also think that there were simply too many people for the size of the venue. Let’s hope the organisers take on board the areas where things could be better for future events.
Geronimo have issued the following statement:
Geronimo Festival is sorry some visitors did not have a good experience on Sunday. We acknowledge there were delays accessing the festival site. We opened the carpark earlier at 8.30am to help ease congestion. We appreciate this was frustrating, especially when travelling with young children. We changed the start times of the live stage shows and we extended the open hours, closing later at 6:30pm.
As a father of seven, the Festival Director understands that a positive family day out is of the utmost importance.
All feedback from yesterday’s event has been taken seriously and the team worked hard to rectify these issues where possible. We will also be responding to people individually.
Geronimo is set to return to Tatton Park on 29th and 30th May. We are working closely with Cheshire Council to facilitate the smooth running of the festival.
The second instalment of Geronimo 2016 takes place at Tatton Park in Cheshire on 29th & 30th May, for more details head over to www.geronimofest.com