ONCE again, the Other Half, the four year-old and myself headed off to CarFest to sample things from the perspective of a young family.
We have been lucky enough to attend the event since it began, and it has been fascinating to see how its provision for younger festivalgoers has adapted and expanded over the years.
As a family, we used to go to Camp Bestival, but now that CarFest is right on our doorstep near our hometown of Basingstoke, we are lucky enough not to have to make that journey in order to enjoy a top-drawer family festival.
The other half and myself still don't get to enjoy the music as much as we'd like - our daughter gets very bored by it and constantly moans that it's time to go home the minute her dad and I even contemplate taking up a spot near the stage - but that's the price you pay for having young children.
When we commute daily to the site - a ten minute drive or so from our house - we accept that we will enjoy our day for as long as she does. When she needs to go home to bed, we retire ourselves.
I worried a little after our arrival when we had to make the new trek from the day car park – pretty long for four year-old legs – and then wait for around 40 minutes to actually get through the gate and past the bag search. But she ceased moaning and perked up no end the minute that we finally turned a corner and were able to take in the sight of CarFest South itself.
Her dad might have been immediately tempted by the vehicles in the hill climb and the paddock, but our daughter was only bothered about spending time there when we were searching for the stamps for her Laverstoke card which were located there.
The latter seemed to be a very popular innovation: a series of Laverstoke-related stamps were dotted around the site in every section, and young kids could run around searching for them.
There was no prize at the end but that didn’t matter – all of the children we saw seemed to be having enough of a laugh just finding them and getting to mark their cards. One young man was so keen on the stamp that he decorated his hands, arms and own forehead too!
Hopefully in a few years’ time, our daughter will understand more of the excitement of seeing cars like the Movie Seven (a Herbie Beetle, a yellow ‘Bumblebee’ Camaro, Chitty, a Delorean DMC12, a Casino Royale Aston Marin DBS and the Elanor Mustang GT500), and Ed China’s collection of crazy vehicles which formed part of the Unusual Seven. How often do people drive a bonkers motorised sofa up a hill in front of your very eyes?
Our daughter’s eyes did absolutely light up when she spotted something exciting and new for 2014 – a LEGO Imagination Factory, complete with LEGO figures outside.
She’s absolutely obsessed with the famous Danish brick, and with The LEGO Movie, and so had no problem waiting in line to gain admission to the little room, wherein she could play with as many bricks as she liked.
We did miss 2013’s fantastic huge inflatable area but there were still a row of bouncy castles, for which individual queues applied, and Rainbow Play Systems with their trampolines.
Bouncy Castle World was also quite near to kids driving world, where Tank World offered the opportunity to drive a tank around a course, and to the British Radio Car Association’s stand. Their very experienced remote controlled car operators drew a sizeable crowd of all ages, all of whom were fascinated by the speed and dexterity of their manipulation of a series of fun little vehicles.
Driving fans could also queue up to operate earth-moving machinery in Diggerland and watch the experts from David Russell Stunts at work in the main showground. I could go on, but the provision was endless. How the parents of excited young boys coped I have no idea!
Also new for this year were a series of tents, including the Book Den, where a number of readings and events took place, including daily appearances by Nick Wadham. The Phoenix Comic Club were there, in addition to staff from Waterstone’s in Basingstoke, who were on hand with advice about stellar books to buy. The quiet ‘book swap’ reading corner also seemed pretty popular with a constant stream of traffic coming in to exchange one of their old books for something different.
The Big Top circus tent provided a full schedule, including appearances from Basingstoke Rock Choir and our town’s famous ventriloquist Steve Hewlett. There were bubble shows, pirate appearances, Jo Jingles, BugFest and the really fun Silent Disco going on, too.
Mid-afternoon on one of the days, a rancid temper tantrum meant only one thing – she was already knackered. And within a few minutes of me setting up camp by the haybales beside the English RFU sponsored Ball World (where brave souls were playing table tennis in the wind), she was completely out for the count.
That provided her father with a nice two hour break in which to enjoy himself at the car stands, taking in the dazzling array of assembled motors; from Buggattis, Jaguars, Mustangs, Lexus’, Aston Martins, Porsches, Lamborghinis and classic Fords, Chevrolets, Pontiacs, right through to (lucky) Chris Evans’ Magnificent Seven – the 1963 Ferrari 250 GT SWB, the 1964 Ferrari 250 GT Lusso, 1965 Ferrari 275 GTS Spyder, 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB 6C, 1973 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona Berlinetta, the 1990 Ferrari F40 and the 2014 La Ferrari.
Meanwhile, I toddler-sat and watched hundreds of festivalgoers, who’d each donated money to Children in Need for the privilege, bicycling past on mini and maxi Penny Farthing bicycles, courtesy of the Mr Phoebus Penny Farthing Experience.
Once we were back in action, we paid a visit to old favourites Playbus and to the Creation Station tent, where three separate craft tables offered, among other things, mask making and basket weaving. All parents of overtired children will know what valuable respite areas like this can be when kids get a bit frazzled or exhausted, and just need a little calm playtime.
And it’s always surprising, especially when they’re as young as our daughter, just what they decide that they have enjoyed the most. She was over the moon when she was handed a huge Pink Lady at the apple company’s stand, and given a flag on which she could colour in two apple figures.
The other half and I were definitely shocked when we asked her about her experience at the end of day one and she talked about nothing except the bouncy castles and the ‘apple seller’. It was no surprise that she made a beeline for the stand on day two! Simple pleasures.