Join the four-day party with lively rovers, lively dancing, delicious food and more.
The International Festival of Children’s Arts is always a great splash of color, energy and innovative artistic activities that expand our imaginations and our dreams.
This year, expect to see flighty fairies, imperial stilt walkers, jaw-dropping trapeze artists and costumed painted rovers in bold, contrasting hues. It’s that annual time of St. Albert’s spring season when the town returns to silliness, fun, games and laughter.
Due to the unpredictability of the pandemic, the festival has been shortened to four days instead of the usual six. It takes place primarily in downtown St. Albert at the Arden Theatre, Millennium Park and along both banks of the Sturgeon River from June 2-5.
Despite its shortened race, it promises not to disappoint. The festival once again gives free rein to creativity with a series of live shows on the main stage, workshops, site rovers and an outdoor stage as well as a handful of virtual programs. And everything is designed to ignite the fire of artistic success in children and young people.
“Could there be anything better downtown than a beautiful June day in the river valley enjoying laughter, fun and unique performances. It doesn’t get better than that,” said Andrea Gammon, festival coordinator.
A brand new event never attempted at the festival is Koo Koo After Hours, for those over 18, held on Saturday, June 4 at the Thirsty Rooster Trail Eatery and Bar. While the bar crowd dines and drinks in style, children’s duo Koo Koo Kanga Roo will entertain the adults with Koo Koo KLassics such as superheroes unite and Dinosaur Trampling.
Bryan Atchison and Neil Olstad are part of Koo Koo Kanga Roo. Originally musicians in a traditional rock band, they kicked off a clean, goofy duo with cheesy dance moves as a gimmick. To their surprise, it took off, with invitations to schools, folk festivals and tours in Canada, the UK, Japan and Australia.
Koo Koo Kanga Roo’s specialty is performing shows for children, and when the organizers asked the duo if they would be willing to attempt a show for the big kids, the answer was an unequivocal “yes.”
“Our adult show will be exactly the same as the kids show, except they serve alcohol,” Atchison said. “It’s just something for parents and teachers who might need something like kids. We have fun through clean, quirky music and dancing. It’s a nod and a wink to go out and have a good time.
Back on the kids’ front, there are plenty of creative areas that cater to different tastes. In addition to five feature films combining acrobatics, music, dance, theater and clowning, there is a series of nine hands-on workshops.
Due to continued popular demand, Printmaking, Maskmaking, and Drums are back. For nature lovers, 2022 is the Year of the Garden and the Heritage Museum highlights the importance of gardens through the role of bees and butterflies as pollinators.
The more tech-savvy will find Sound Lab a curious discovery as “Doctor” Dave Clarke creates sound effects to bring movies and games to life.
“Dave Clarke has been at the festival before, but not for eight or ten years. He teaches students how to use everyday objects to create sound effects for video production. It’s a wonderful combination of high tech and low tech , resulting in the best sound effects,” Gammon said.
Anyone enchanted by storytelling and sitting around a campfire may wish to visit Fires at the Théâtre des Petites Âmes. Rocks. stories. Participants choose a stone. Through the stone, develops a singular discovery of images and characters.
Although Toddler Town, a quiet place for mothers and young children under five, is not part of the festival this year, organizers have included The Garden of Little Souls. It’s an interactive sensory garden designed for the toddler crowd that introduces puppetry and music.
Also new this year are the Ukrainian dancers of Shumka Whirling movements. This is your chance to work with two professional Shumka dancers and learn basic styles, techniques and a fancy turn or two.
Fizzlewit is back with Fairy Discovery Toura magical treasure hunt in the forest where children solve puzzles and clues to find Flutterby, a lost fairy princess.
“Kids think he’s hilarious and so much fun. And we have beautiful woods here where it’s fun to hunt fairies,” Gammon said.
A fraternity of staff and volunteers has worked hard over the past year to attract diverse performers for its young patrons.
First on the list, the festival highlights First Nations and Métis culture through the experience of Indigenous peoples and The Healing Garden, Kâkesimokamik, activities and performances on the north bank of the Sturgeon River. Walk-in activities feature stories, demonstrations and traditional crafts.
Aboriginal artists have revived their culture and allow visitors to visualize its many facets. Featured are hoop dancers Hazel and Mark McKennit, craftsman Ryan Arcand, playwright-actor Josh Languedoc, violinist Zachary Willier, dancer-flutist Darnell Brertton and storyteller Celina Loyer.
Anyone impressed by the spins and twists in the sky will enjoy The Silver Starlets aerobatic show. Located in Millennium Park, the two acrobats climb a six-meter-high freestanding trapeze. The duo twists and tumbles, climbs and falls, as the audience cheers and cheers.
TELUS World of Science is back to explore science elements including rockets, space and puzzles. All the while, he invites kids to test their skills using a solar-powered viewer, launching a rocket, and playing with pop bottle rockets.
Walk Walk Dance was created during the pandemic so people could interact with music and sound while remaining socially distant. Walk Walk Dance is a series of lines on a sidewalk that, when walked on, emits sounds or music similar to a giant xylophone.
“It was developed by a public art institute in Montreal during COVID. Lines were laid on a sidewalk six feet away and you could walk, roll and roll over them. The different sounds would interact with each other and harmonize,” Gammon said. “As soon as I saw it, I thought it was absolutely delicious. It looks so happy and playful on everyone, whether you’re walking, dancing or rolling around in it.
The lines are on a 30-meter sidewalk along the northern part of St. Albert Place leading from the Steinhauer sculptures on Red Willow Trail to the Cenotaph. It will be on display until June 30.
The TD Outdoor Stage, one of the festival’s most popular gathering places, is once again destined for St. Albert Place Plaza. Around 20 performers are expected to entertain throughout the four-day event. They range from the solid mastery of the Music of the Royal Canadian Artillery to the wacky and wild dance moves of Spandy Andy. St. Albert dance artist Paige Tirs smacks to jazz beats with her Rhythm Motives troupe even as Los Rebeldes Musicales teases hot Latin grooves.
Amanda “Panda” Syryda, who is one of the touring performers on Thursday and Friday, will also host the outdoor stage on Saturday and Sunday.
“I’m going to perform every act and do a few short acts myself with hula hoop, juggling and spinning plates,” Syryda said. “Thursday and Friday I will be streaming the magic of the rainbow as my butterfly character.”
Another traveling performer, Elizabeth Hobbs of Pandoric Productions, is more of a traveling act on stilts. Back for a fifth year, she returns under several characters: a bubble fairy, a ballerina and a doll character.
“The festival is super fun. I love interacting with children, playing and giving back. With adults, there is not the same sense of interaction. I love it when kids ask about fairies or how I got so big or why I can’t fly. I take the questions and develop my character based on the questions,” Hobbs said.
There are simply too many events to list. However, one thing is certain. The International Festival of Children’s Arts is a place to rediscover childhood with its innocent sense of discovery, play and laughter.
Parking is limited. Free park and ride shuttles are available every 20 minutes at the St. Albert Center bus interchange to and from the festival site from 8:20 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. All festival information is available at www.stalbert.ca.