Preventing Fair Disasters: A Mom's Guide to the Durham Fair

Last year, Durham Fair weekend was a nightmare for me. I don't want to relive it, but I'm happy to share the horror and help start our very own Durham Fair Parenting Guide.


Last year's Durham Fair weekend was a personal nightmare. My husband was away for work, my mom was visiting family in Greece, and I and my two kids, who were 2 1/2 years old and 10 months old at the time, came down with nasty colds. As the saying goes, when it rains, it pours. My daughter ended up falling down the stairs at some point (she was fine, but her mom is still recovering), was waking several times a night and needing to be snuggled back to bed and I was at my wit's end because we couldn't take our runny noses to visit friends and get a break from each other.

I did brave Sunday at the fair, and it started off reasonably well. We saw some animals and were enjoying music and dinner at Center Stage. Then my daughter decided it would be funny to make a run for it. While keeping my eyes on her, I hustled to throw everything back into the stroller (especially my son), and managed to catch her as she was boogying down in a tent by the Center Stage. And thus concluded the Durham Fair for the Dreyfus family that year.

I expect this year's fair to be infinitely better: my husband is home for one; my mom is back from her exotic summer travels and available for backup; my kids will remain healthy... or else; my daughter is old enough to know not to run away; and my son will be in a harness. I may be kidding about that last one.

I have also been preparing my kids for the most awesome musical guest, Kenny Rogers, by playing one of his greatest hits albums over and over and over again. Want to hear a three year old sing The Gambler?

I will start off our Durham Fair Parenting Guide with a few tips of wisdom I have gleaned over the past couple years of being a Durham mom. Please add to it as I know the parents of our towns have mountains of experience and the wisdom that comes with it.


1. If one of your kids is a runner, don't go it alone. A one to one ratio is always best.

2. If your kids are not old enough to enjoy the rides, stay away from the Midway. No point rubbing their faces in what they can't have.

3. Make sure you have enough carrying and/or stroller devices. The hills are steep, kids' legs are short. I scored a sit 'n' stand at a consignment shop recently. Gooooooal!

4. Go early, leave early. Try to beat the crowds and the heat. That won't be possible on Friday, "Kenny Rogers Day," but one must make exceptions.

5. Make exceptions but expect the ugly. Prioritize what you really want to attend, but know that you're going to pay later with cranky kids.

6. Be realistic. I know the driving and parking are a hassle, but if you have little ones, you should only expect to stay 2-3 hours. Even I'm ready to cry after four hours.

Share your best parenting tips for making the Durham Fair a pleasure for all. Or, even better, let us learn from your mistakes and share your most awful moments.

Karen Kean September 19, 2012 at 04:32 PM
It seems you have everything pretty much covered. I think the harness is a good idea. I did that with my son as he was a runner and you want him safe and you are in control. Have a good time. Hope the weather is like today. NO RAIN
Tracy Spaar Earnshaw September 20, 2012 at 12:10 AM
I love this conversation! I've been bringing my kids since my 7-year-old was a 5-month -old. One important rule is to have low expectations for what you will accomplish in one day. Prioritize based on what your kids will enjoy the most. Seeing the animals, eating a meal, and going to the Kids' Place are probably enough for one day. Some of my best memories are of just sitting on a blanket people watching, or llama watching while the kids snack. My kids also like running up and down the grassy hill behind the llama barn. The best rides for little ones are the merry-go-round and the Ferris Wheel because a parent can ride along.
Christina Dreyfus September 20, 2012 at 11:30 AM
Thanks, Tracy! Excellent suggestions. And thank you, Karen, for supporting use of the harness. Luckily, they've got cute ones these days that look like backpacks.
Sharon Criscuolo September 21, 2012 at 08:32 PM
I agree with the harness completely. We had one for my granddaughter and it was a great investment. It was not just used for the fair but anywhere that there were a lot of people. It is always better to be safe than sorry and don't think about what other people say, it is your child and you want to keep him safe. Sharon Criscuolo


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