A parents guide to surviving Westfest

by Andrea June 10, 11, 12 are tripled-circled in our calendar. We are BOOKED, and have been for weeks. We are officially ready for Westfest Weekend.

Like many of my Westboro-area neighbours, my family and I are proud of Westfest. Westfest is, at it’s heart, a giant street party. Some would argue that it’s the kind of street party that’s experienced a few forgivable growing pains in past years, but that’s to be expected from an undertaking of this size.

Today our collective chests puff out a little when talk comes around to this little festival that grew. It draws massive crowds, great musical acts, and best of all, it’s a great family-friendly event that’s totally free.

Every year my daughters (who are now 10 and 12) marvel at the fact that Westfest takes place at the end of our street. We live so close that we end up paying multiple visits over the entire weekend. Westfest weekend is the one time of year we get to visit and chat with almost all of our friends and neighbours. (Of course it goes without saying that my kids hate this part, because it holds them up from The Fun Stuff.)

Westfest has become a summertime tradition in our family, and since we’ve been doing Westfest since the very beginning I think I’m qualified to give some advice on how to survive with kids in tow.

If you live close enough to Westfest you must consider walking. If you live outside a comfortable walking distance, please be aware that street parking is extremely limited. Get comfortable with the idea that you will have to leave your car far from the action.

Wear your best walking shoes and haul out that umbrella stroller, because it’s a bit of hike if you plan on taking everything in. Westfest covers 14 blocks, nearly a one kilometre chunk of Richmond Road, which can feel very long if your feet hurt.

Taking your bike is another option. Save yourself some aggravation and lock it up in the secure area on Tweedsmuir Avenue at Richmond.

Check the weather before you leave the house, and if you’re planning on spending some time there, prepare for any weather-related eventuality. We’ve been going to Westfest every year since it began and have experienced it all: days so cold you crave cups of coffee just so you can warm up your hands, and days so hot we’ve come close to fainting from heat stroke. And on that note…

Bring water and sunscreen, and make a food plan. If it’s a nice day it is guaranteed that restaurants will be packed. Many of them extend out to the street and serve a pared down menu in order to take pressure off the kitchen staff. The Works, for example, only serves two or three kinds of burgers during Westfest. If you don’t have a plan and find yourself walking from restaurant to restaurant long after lunchtime you will soon come to regret it, especially if there are kids involved. One year we just plain gave up on finding room on a patio and so we ordered takeout pizza from Newport and ate it by the side of the street.         And last but not least, tie balloons securely around little wrists!

Daytime at Westfest is for the families to enjoy what they call the “On The Street” stuff. There is a lot for kids to see and do. In past years we’ve seen many cool street performers, enjoyed various inflatable bouncy things, and taken advantage of some great facepainting artists too.

But in my view, Westfest is truly about the music. Check out the lineup here first, and then book a sitter. The Domicile main stage has moved to a new location and is now situated along the grassy strip behind the Real Canadian Superstore. (Here’s a map.) The main stage will open at 5 pm and the entire audience area at this year’s Domicile main stage will be fully licensed. (!)

Our family is really looking forward to a bigger and better Westfest this year. If you see us, please stop and say hello!

Andrea Tomkins is mother of two imps and wife of one. She on the board of directors of the Westboro Community Association and keeps a personal blog called a peek inside the fishbowl.