No Bouncy Houses? No Problem! Bristol Rhythm Children’s Day Focused on Family Fun

“It’s hot. We’re hungry. Why are we just standing here?”

Whiny, yet totally legit complaints heard at every summer festival in existence since the advent of festivals. Why not move on? Find some shade? Go get a snack? You can’t. Because you and your whole family are trapped, covered in flop sweat, held hostage in long lines to an attraction some parents consider the kid equivalent to a cage match – the bouncy house.

Is all that waiting in line really worth it when there are so many other awesome things to do?

Children’s Day at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion happens annually on Saturday mornings of the festival from 10:00am—2:00pm. It’s free and open to the community, so nobody needs a ticket to attend. Last year the event underwent a change when the staff at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum took over the organization of Children’s Day so it could better serve our mission of music.

As scholars do, museum staff asked a lot of questions about Children’s Day: How was this mini-event honoring our music heritage? Was it creating lasting memories that would make families want to return? What could they do to make it more fun? At the end of the day, the decision was made to bounce anything families couldn’t participate in together, sooo…bye-bye bouncies. And you know what? Nobody really missed them.

Since the first Children’s Day began with the 4th annual Bristol Rhythm in 2004, we have been blessed to have dozens of local nonprofits, organizations, and businesses generously donate their time and an array of fun crafts, games, and activities for the event. Last year we saw more families interacting with these activities than ever, and we are so grateful to those organizations for being part of Children’s Day, adding so much creativity and making it even more special.

We were thrilled to see the young ladies of YWCA Bristol TechGYRLS work their booth – a fine example of youth leadership for all the kids attending Children’s Day! © Birthplace of Country Music

Families gathered at the Upper Tennessee River Roundtable booth to make art with recyclables and did hands-on gardening with the volunteers from Appalachian Sustainable Development. There was also lots of interest in the Keep Bristol Beautiful mobile classroom, and everyone wanted to make a cool terra-cotta pot wind chime, thanks to the Sullivan County Soil & Water Conservation District. Whether families were making puffy letter art, necklaces from small discs of wood, paper plate tambourines, or shaker drums from cups, they all got to be creative and bring back a memento to keep or give as a gift.

A treasured make-take-and-do item – wind chimes made from terra-cotta pots! At another booth, kids used Sharpies to customize wooden discs recycled from small tree limbs for the centerpiece of a colorful, beaded necklace. © Birthplace of Country Music

The Birthplace of Country Music Museum’s special exhibit We are the Music Makers: Preserving the Soul of America’s Music was on display inside the museum during last year’s festival, so an extension to the exhibit was placed outdoors for the duration of Bristol Rhythm. The temporary and waterproof display introduced families to the striking images in the exhibit and also invited kids to make music with the attached spoons and Boomwhackers. The museum also hosted a separate Boomwhacker station where groups of children and adults played a variety of songs together, which proved to be a huge hit!

Song notes were projected on a screen in the Boomwhacker station to teach families how to make music with these simple instruments. ©Birthplace of Country Music

Of course, our favorite Children’s Day activities involve music. And there were lots of musical options at last year’s festival. Families square danced and dosey doe’d with the Empty Bottle String Band and frolicked to the sounds of Silly Bus, while the kids from local school Sullins Academy performed for the audience with big smiles and a sweet dash of sass – appropriate for their tribute to the great Loretta Lynn!

A sight we love to see: the entire family dancing together! During a later part of Children’s Day, Millie Rainero performed a solo with the Sullins Academy kids. © Birthplace of Country Music

Each year we look for new and entertaining additions to Children’s Day. Last year Jalopy Junction took everyone on a wild ride with death-defying balancing acts and feats of strength – an adrenaline rush for the performers and audience alike.

Children’s Day brings so much value to our festival each year – an opportunity to partner with and highlight the many wonderful nonprofits and organizations in our local community, a chance to extend our mission beyond our brick-and-mortar doors, and most importantly as a way to share a deep love of music with children. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll see some of them on our festival stages!

So we invite everyone to come out to Children’s Day at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion in 2017, bring the whole family, put on your dancing shoes, and get ready to have fun!

Contortionism and breathing fire were just a few tricks the vaudeville troupe Jalopy Junction performed during Children’s Day. In another area of the event, the music brought people out to dance together. © Birthplace of Country Music, photographers: Dyan Buck and Jonathan McCoy, King University Department of Digital Media Art & Design

Charlene Tipton Baker is a Marketing Specialist at the Birthplace of Country Music.

Marketing Specialist at the Birthplace of Country Music


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