ultra |ˈəltrə| informal noun an extremist; adverb [as submodifier] very; extremely: the play was not just boring, it was ultra boring. – MERRIAM WEBSTER
Based on Webster’s definition, I’m ultra over Ultra. And it hasn’t even started yet. For those of you not familiar with this long-awaited music event, ULTRA is an annual three-day music festival in downtown Miami that’s happening this upcoming weekend. It started 15 years ago (the year I gave birth to my daughter) as a small soiree for electronic dance music (EDM) aficionados. Over the past decade and a half, it has “ultra” successfully grown into a three-day massive concert culminating the Winter Music Conference (WMC). I should have recognized the omen of things to come when my daughter was a poster child for the WMC in the early years.
Ultra is Miami’s EDM version of SXSW, Lollapalooza or Coachella, and if you’re over 35 and NOT involved in the music industry or have a love of EDM, consider this your introduction to the subculture.
If you have children or preteens and live in South Florida, do not ever judge the already ultra-fied parents of slightly older children around this time of year. I assure you, at some point within the next decade, you will not pass through the teen years untouched by Ultra (and we older parents will be the first ones “liking” your kids’ Ultra pictures on Instagram once your little angel enters the Ultra years).
You, too, will undoubtedly one day be asked to fork over $500 for a three-day pass to Ultra. Months before the event, every resourceful parent will try his/her best to snag “Early Bird” tickets online for a fraction of the price. FYI, snagging these golden tickets is as easy as winning Powerball. So good luck with that.
You will also be asked to either shop for, or fork over more money for, the mandatory Ultra outfits that one wears to the festival. This wardrobe consists of a mixture of the following: the most hideous fluorescent-colored spandex you can remember wearing in the 80’s, blended with a touch of 1960’s Woodstock-esque headbands and flowers, and topped with hundreds of accessories, furry animal hats, and my personal favorite: “candy/kandi.” Candy is what we would otherwise call “plastic, beaded bracelets” (any other time of the year, these fashion choices are exclusively worn by either 6-year-old little girls or a slightly deranged, older homeless woman pushing a shopping cart containing her worldly possessions).
You will become familiar with their Ultra lexicon. You will know when and how to use the phrases turned up, turned down, PLUR, dubstep, when the bass drops, just to name a few off the top of my head. You may even like some of the artists and music if you just open up your mind a little bit. It ain’t Springsteen but some of it is really, really good.
You will, at the end of a very long weekend, thank whichever god you pray to that your child (and you) survived a very long weekend. They will come home to you dirty, broke and dehydrated ($5/bottles of water over three, dusty 85+ degree 12-hour days – do the math). Your child will be exhausted and if you’re lucky, welcome a little of that mommy TLC they’ve been vehemently eschewing during these teen years.
And before you ask, yes, we are aware of the dangers of Ultra. We are aware of the fact that there are drugs and alcohol associated with music festivals (we middle-aged South Floridians all survived the Sportatorium). We have open dialogues with our children about the perils of bad choices. I’m very fortunate that the majority of my daughter’s friends have moms that are realistic, like-minded amazing mothers who band together as a village to raise our children. We share the understanding that our children do not live in bubbles. That whether one lives in a tiny city or a bustling metropolis, teens today are exposed to drugs and alcohol in settings far less obvious than a music festival. Whether they choose to tell you or not (and for your sake, I hope they feel comfortable enough to have you as a sounding board), they make choices daily. In schools, online, at parties, at friends’ homes, the sheltering of yesteryear really does not exist today. The only measure of where their internal “judgment compass” lies is in the choices THEY make when exposed to situations. So far, I am ridiculously proud of my children, their choices thus far, and the wonderful friends (and friends’ parents) they’ve surrounded themselves with.
So that being said, I will now step off my soapbox, finalize the ULTRA transportation details with my army of supermoms, turn on my newest favorite artist that my daughter introduced me to (Chance the Rapper, in case you’re wondering), and anxiously await my favorite day of the year: post-Ultra Monday.