When I was little we would go to the
NEFFA festival every year. I loved
seeing the dancing: contra dance, international, dance performances.
I loved listening to the music: bands, performances, hallway jamming.
I loved eating the cake the Lithuanian booth would sell. My cousins
would come up from Philadelphia, and it was one of my favorite
weekends of the year.
Those early experiences at NEFFA got me into an activity and a
community that has been a huge part of my life ever since. I've been
a dancer, musician, caller, and helped
organize a dance series and
weekend. I've been
bringing my kids with me when I go early to set up for the dance and
when I travel to play dances
elsewhere, and I'm glad they're getting to enjoy something that's
been so important to me.
Which is why I was so disappointed to learn that the first in-person
NEFFA since 2019 has
chosen a covid policy that excludes small children.
Regrettably, out of concern for everyone's safety, children who for
whatever reason are unable to remain appropriately masked as described
above, including those two years of age or younger, are not permitted
to attend this year's Festival.
When I described this policy to my cousin their response was "I guess
that means we won't be able to go this year." I think this will
likely be a common response among families with small children, and an
How seriously organizers and individuals should be trying to limit
covid spread is something there's a lot of disagreement on, mostly
tracing back to different interpretations of the limited amount we
know about the long-term impacts of getting sick. If the NEFFA
organizers want to put on a very covid-cautious event that's not
something I think people should give them grief over, and I'd rather see an
in-person NEFFA for part of the community than no in-person event at
all. But while if the precautions under which they were able to hold
the event were uniformly strict I could see excluding people to young
to mask, they aren't uniformly strict:
There will be indoor dining, people eating and talking with
Wind instruments are (likely—there's a case-by-case
component) allowed with same-day testing.
Despite rapid tests now being cheap and
widely available, they don't require them.
They have an exception process for adults who are unable to be
vaccinated for medical reasons.
I don't think these policy choices are terrible, but I also don't see
how they're compatible with a view that small children are too risky
to allow. I would like to encourage the NEFFA organizers to rethink
their decisions here, and figure out whether there's a way to include
them safely. For example, allowing them to attend with same-day rapid
testing, perhaps combined with distancing restrictions, like no
baby-in-carrier contra dancing?
Putting on a festival like NEFFA is a massive amount of work, and it's
impressive that NEFFA has managed this while continuing to be an
all-volunteer organization. There are a huge number of decisions
involved in putting on an event of this scale, especially while
organizing the first one in four years and at a new venue, and I don't
expect I'm going to agree with every single one. Still, I think the
effect this has on who can attend the festival is large enough and
uneven enough that more discussion and consideration are needed.
I can't find it right now, but I distinctly remember you posting about BIDA having a similar "kids excluded" policy, I think back when under-5s couldn't be vaccinated. At the time, you said it was no/low cost, and someone in the comments pointed out that the cost was the entire cost of attending the dance. I didn't see an explicit revision to your thinking posted. Can you articulate your revised cost-benefit for under 2s, who can't do basic things like cover a cough or wash their hands after touching their mouth?
I linked my earlier post in this one: https://www.jefftk.com/p/vaccine-requirements-age-and-fairness
I still endorse both posts. The idea is, if the choice is between an event that everyone could in theory attend but doesn't happen, and an event that only some people can attend but does happen, I'd like to see the latter. In this case, however, the other covid policy choices they're making (wind instruments with testing, no rapid testing for most attendees) don't seem consistent with a view that children are too risky to allow.