A Very Special Children’s Festival
Photo credit: Office de Tourism du Grand Bornand
When I moved to the Aravis four years ago I’d never heard of the Bonheur des Momes children’s festival in Le Grand Bornand. Now you can’t keep me and my kids away! Since we first discovered it back in 2014 the event has grown and grown, but it still retains its warm, welcoming, slightly bohemian atmosphere while attracting some incredible talent from around the world.
So what is Bonheur des Momes?
Roughly translated as ‘happiness of the little ones’, this festival is definitely all about keeping kids happy. Every year the festival literally takes over the mountain village of Le Grand Bornand and attracts thousands of visitors from across France, Europe and beyond.
Come along and you’ll find everything from magic shows and street art, to pottery workshops, theatre and a huge music garden made out of recycled items such as bottles, pans and even wellies!
It is a week of so much fun, entertainment and action for children, all with a very unspoilt, traditional vibe that genuinely leaves you with a warm glow.
When does it take place?
Bonheur des Momes takes place during the last full week of August each year – this year it’s from the 26 – 31 August. It’s a perfect end to the summer holidays but still gives parents enough time to get their children ready for the return to school – the infamous ‘rentree’ as the French call it.
What age of children is it for?
I’d say that most children up to the age of about 14 will probably find plenty to enjoy, but I think children between the ages of about four and 11 will get the most of it. There are special areas for very young children, such as soft play and lovely wooden toys, and the creche in Le Grand Bornand also does some activities for babies, such as baby massage. For older children there are numerous theatre shows and magicians, along with some fabulous workshops where they can learn about science, woodwork and more.
How much does it cost?
Last year the organisers changed it a little. Now you buy a Festival Pass to get access to the village – one day is 5€ per person, or the full week pass is 20€ per person, with children under four getting free entrance. In addition, there is a huge programme of shows, workshops and entertainments – some are at an additional charge but many are free. My kids loved spending hours at the free games in the centre of the village – these are lovely traditional wooden games which also offer great fun – try clambering through an assault course, throwing sponges into a huge wooden clown’s mouth, marble runs and many, many more.
What kind of shows are there?
There is almost too much to choose from. Unique artists from all over the world come to perform here and the whole town is taken over with performances, both indoors and out in the fresh air. One of our favourites last year was undoubtedly an incredible magic show featuring five different magicians. The performance was one of the best I’ve ever seen and my son, then seven years old, absolutely loved it and didn’t want it to end. He’s already planning to go back this year.
You’ll also find puppet shows, dance spectacles, comedy, jugglers, mime and music – in fact anything you can think would entertain children is likely to be here!
What about workshops?
The workshops are fantastic. My kids have done everything from the Petit Fermier, where they fed goats and looked after chickens, to pottery, woodwork, mask making and a Sherlock Holmes investigation techniques workshop! As with the shows, you need to book in advance but it’s definitely worth signing them up for a few of these.
It’s tricky to choose just a few, and there are so many shows we’ve never seen, but here are a few things my kids have loved –
The music garden
Set by the river, this is free to explore and a great opportunity for them to discover new sounds and some very different instruments! Made of wood, bottle tops, old wheels, pans, wellies, recorders and many more recycled items, kids can freely make all the music they want.
Last year this was in the bus station car park and is great for young children. They only let about 15 or 20 children in at a time and each child can take a shopping basket or apron. Some are shopkeepers selling fruit, fish, meat, cakes and more, and others are the shoppers buying their ingredients before heading to the toy kitchen to cook. Head there early to avoid the queues.
My eldest remembers making a fabulous rainbow cake in the science tent and learning about the processes that take place when baking. It was all done in a fun, child friendly way and when I just asked him what he loved most this was top of the list.
Children’s building site
A really fantastic area with sand and a whole host of wonderful children’s building tools, including diggers, spades, a crane and more. Every child gets a hard hat and workers vest to add to the experience. Perfect for younger children who will love it.
Where does everything take pace?
The Festival really does take over the whole village. There are colourful marquees and tents erected around the town to host some of the activities, while others are performed outside in the streets or in the open air forum. Many of the village’s buildings are also used, such as the school and the cinema, so you’ll find entertainments everywhere you look!
Any language barrier?
Don’t worry if you can’t speak much French. I still can’t speak that much, but love everything that’s on offer and the amazing atmosphere. Some of the shows would definitely be better if you have some level of French, but others such as the magic and dance shows, and the workshops, are great in any language. You’ll also find that many of the people who work there or run the workshops speak some level of English so your child should get plenty out of the experience. It’s also a great opportunity for you and your child to practice your French!
Want to escape from the crowds?
The beauty of this festival is that while it can get busy at times there’s always somewhere to escape to. Our tip would be to arrive early and use that time to do some of the free activities or sign up for other entertainments your children would like to do. If it all gets a bit too much in the heat of the day, head to the river in Le Grand Bornand for a picnic and a quick paddle. Alternatively, there’s a fabulous outdoor swimming pool right in the village centre – you’ll walk past it a lot during the Festival – so take your swimming things and enjoy a couple of hours in the pool.
Le Grand Bornand is just over an hour from Geneva Airport, so it’s easy to get to. When you come to the Festival follow signs for the parking areas – again, I’d recommend arriving early just to take the stress out of trying to park in time for the show you’ve booked! Each year the Festival has become a little more organised, so you’ll find people on hand to help and direct you to parking areas.
Any other tips?
Plan your visit! You can get the Festival programme in advance and book your tickets online, so plan what you want to see and check locations and timings. Good planning will mean you can get from one place to another and keep all your children happy. Although with so much to see, do and enjoy it’s hard for children not to have the time of their lives at this festival.
Keep your eye on the event website for full details of the 2018 festival and to book tickets. If you’d like to stay in Le Grand Bornand – or one of the neighbouring towns such as La Clusaz, Thones or Manigod – during the festival then take a look at OVO Network for chalets including Chalet Le Charmieux and Chalet des Mômes.