St. Albert has a normally staid reputation. But for five days every spring, a fantasy world overtakes the downtown as it morphs into a carnival tent city complete with magicians, jugglers, singers, clowns, queens and ghosts.
Rumours are flying that even the legendary Gaudi, an ugly troll reputed to live in Millennium Park forest, will shamble in to the 29th annual Northern Alberta International Children’s Festival running June 1 to 5.
This year’s theme is Where Kids Rule and anyone attending the Rainmaker Rodeo parade will see a castle centrepiece marking the festival float.
“Everyone is excited. People are in and out of the office ironing out last minute details. People are dropping by the Arden box office to buy tickets. There’s the regular hustle and bustle,” says festival director Nancy Abrahamson.
The energetic leader has worked on the festival for 16 years, three as director. “I’ve seen it go from a $250,000 budget to a $1.23 million budget. And the quality of acts and number of site activities has really gone up. We used to have three or four site activities. Now we have about 20. We used to have three main stage venues. Now we have five or six.”
Organizers have slotted some of the world’s top international children’s artists — 78 main stage shows and 120 roving performances with more than 600 volunteers providing support.
Diverse main stage acts from Canada, Belgium, Scotland, Vietnam and Taiwan showcase a myriad of cultural entertainment ranging from puppetry, acrobatics and circus arts to music, theatre and dance.
In addition to the 10 main stage acts, there’s a distinct assortment of site activities from cracking secret codes and painting a mosaic to percussive boogieing and immersing yourself into a gigantic, 3D pop-up book.
While most of the site activities are $3, organizers have also scheduled numerous free events such as the Enmax Energy Outdoor Stage, roving artists, inflatables, face painting, balloon artists and sidewalk chalk stations.
The festival also continues its policy of making Tuesday Grandparents’ and Seniors’ Day offering two tickets for the price of one.
Anyone looking for pre-festival involvement can wander down to the Sturgeon River on Sunday and watch the military from Edmonton Garrison erect a floating bridge. “They’re fun to watch. They work hard and you can’t wait for it to be up so you can walk across.”
Free brochures are available at the Arden box office or online at www.childfest.com. Main stage tickets are $8.50 to $10. Call the Arden at 780-459-1542 or visit www.ticketmaster.ca.
St. Albert Transit supplies a free park and ride at the St. Albert Centre bus exchange. Shuttles depart every 15 minutes during the festival. Hours are Tuesday to Thursday and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.