Every year Artistic Director James Keelaghan writes a series of 12 articles for the Owen Sound Sun Times previewing the Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival
By James Keelaghan
A couple of years back, my family and I were at the Mariposa Folk Festival. They had lots of great stuff for kids—giant bubble makers, magic and plenty of music. What our boys couldn’t get enough of, though, were the reptiles. The turtles, snakes, skinks and frogs were endlessly fascinating.
Roxane Davidson, our General Manager/Festival Coordinator, must have thought me a little loony. She asked, “What did you like at Mariposa?” and maybe a little too enthusiastically I blurted, “Reptiles! We gotta book some reptiles!” It’s taken a long time, but they will be slithering, hopping and skidding their way to Summerfolk this year, thanks to Scales Reptile Park. Scales does interactive displays so the kids and you can get up close and personal with your favourites. They will be doing demonstrations at 1PM on both Saturday and Sunday.
Family is very important to us at Summerfolk. That’s why we ask you to check in just inside the main gate at the First Aid/Child Registration trailer. In the rare circumstance that you end up in opposite directions, we like to facilitate your getting back together. After that is taken care of, there is plenty of stuff to do for the kids and grandkids too. Some of my most treasured memories of Summerfolk are bound up with the things my kids have made in the crafts area. Coordinator, Cassandra Bauer, leads a whole volunteer crew that runs our children’s village. They spend the year gathering supplies and drawing up projects for the kids.
The children are set loose on tables full of paper and glue, paint and fabric. Under supervision, they bang away with hammers building ships, cars and even, on one occasion, a full on miniature beach chair that was then put to good use. The kids make masks, banners and decorate T-shirts. They also spend some time decorating a forty-foot long dragon that is the centre-piece of the children’s parade.
The parade was added to the festival a few years ago at Roxane’s suggestion. The dragon, articulated by the children, weaves its way through the procession. The kids fall in line with stilt-walkers and musicians and wend their way through the park arriving at the amphitheatre to open the Sunday evening show. Leading the parade this year will be Tallbeat.
Bringing together the circus element of stilt walking with its gigantic, taller-than-life performers, Tallbeat plays Maracatu style—an Afro-Brazilian drumming style with deep bassy grooves that move the soul. They can be seen and heard over 200m away with their colourful costumes and oversized instruments. Tallbeat raises Afro-Brazilian rhythms to new heights!
Summerfolk is a generational event. Grandparents, parents and children are all in it together in a safe welcoming space. Anyone who knows Kelso Beach Park knows that the splash pad and wading in the bay are a great way to entertain the young ‘uns, too.
On Saturday afternoon this year, we are trying something a little different—a dedicated kids’ concert in the Amphitheatre with the one and only Fred Penner. One of the most popular acts at Summerfolk a couple of years ago, and not just with the kids, people of all ages flocked to his shows for chance to relive memories. From the quintessential version of The Cat Came Back to everybody’s favourite, Sandwiches, Fred delivers the goods and is as entertaining now as he was back in his television heyday.
Then, there’s the music. Although we have featured kids’ performers like Fred, we’ve found that kids, in fact, like all kinds of music. I love being at a stage and watching them feel the music—dancing, swaying and wide-eyed with appreciation. But it cuts both ways—a lot of performers are parents as well. Often they are away from their children while with us at Summerfolk and you can watch them light up when there are kids in audience.
Summerfolk has been putting smiles on faces for 43 years. We will be in Kelso Beach Park August 17, 18 and 19 this year. For information on what’s going on, check us out at www.summerfolk.org.