Categories: Entertainment

Children’s Festival reaches 35th milestone

From left to right: actors Hans Thissen

The 35th International Children’s Festival of the Arts is back ready to deliver world-class theatre, music, storytelling, visual arts and circus arts.

Based out of St. Albert, the May 31 to June 4 arts festival is primed to delight, enchant and engage children of all ages and older folks still young at heart.

“Our mission is to expose children in a fun and entertaining way to the arts. We want to provide experiences they would not get a chance to have otherwise,” said festival co-ordinator Stephen Bourdeau.

As both a festival organizer and St. Albert father of young children, Bourdeau believes in the endless possibilities the festival has to offer.

“So many studies have been done on how arts and music increase learning, develop better attention span, higher grades and a higher work ethic. To me, it’s a point of inspiration where they might see something at the festival and decide to take up painting or dancing or theatre and pursue it,” Bourdeau said.

While the festival continues its mission of promoting the arts through a global perspective, it has shifted how it delivers the message. Rather than market the festival as a whole as was done in previous years, the focus is on providing a boost to individual mainstage shows.

After the 2015 festival, a consulting group was brought in to critically examine the festival. They conducted a survey and provided recommendations.

“What came out of it is that a lot of people don’t fully understand what the festival is about,” said Bourdeau. “Our No. 1 feedback was that people wanted more bouncy castles. That’s not what we’re about. We are an arts based children’s festival.”

While school attendance remains consistent at mainstage shows, the public is less likely to attend ticketed shows on Friday night and Saturday.

“While people attending increased, show and site activities decreased. People had heard from friends how great the festival was and how much was going on – an outdoor stage, rovers, food and a park setting. People would come walk around for an hour and hop on a bus without engaging at the next level with activities and shows.”

The professional acts rank among the world’s best and are a great buy at the $11 subsidized ticket price.

Bourdeau encourages visitors to research the mainstage shows and site activities on the website at www.childfest.com. It provides a description and age appropriateness.

At a quick glance there is the world premiere of Book of Ashes, a full-set production about a librarian that gallantly saves the history and culture of a nation from destruction.

On the other hand, St. Albert Children’s Theatre showcases Freckleface Strawberry, a musical about a little girl that learns to accept her so-called imperfections.

Love That Dog is a charmer about a boy that finds healing in poetry while De Temps Antan, delivers 45 minutes of boundless energy from Quebec’s traditional folk music.

The Gizmo Guys launch witty one-liners with rapid fire juggling. Possibly the most talked show about is KalabantĂ© Productions’ Afrique en Cirque, a group of daring acrobatics that tell stories from Guinea.

Magician Sheldon Casavant performs sleight-of-hand illusions and Fred Penner drops by for some music and song including his signature piece The Cat Came Back.

Bourdeau also notes that the Kollide Project, a visual arts installation composed of 35,000 butterflies is well on its way towards reaching its goal.

“A first we were a little unsure about collecting 35,000 butterflies. To date we have 23,000 butterflies that have been dropped off,” Bourdeau.

At this point, 6,000 butterflies grace St. Albert Place filling the entire main lobby and its pillars.

“It’s going to be a large installation throughout St. Albert Place and at the back. It will literally spill out at the back into the trees.”

Each school child attending the festival is asked to bring a butterfly. Contributions also came from seniors groups, sports groups, Girl Guides, Scouts, preschool organizations, mothers’ clubs and the Boys and Girls Club.

“This just goes to show you how this is a community based festival. It really is a St. Albert event. It goes across all different likes and hobbies.”


International Children’s Festival of the Arts
May 31 to June 4
St. Albert Place, Lions Park, curling club and Ă©cole Father Jan School
Downtown St. Albert
Tickets: Mainstage shows $11. Call 780-459-1542, online at ticketmaster.ca or Arden Theatre box office

Mainstage Shows
• World premiere of Book of Ashes
• St. Albert Children Theatre’s Freckleface Strawberry
• Theatregroep’s Love That Dog
• De Temps Antan
• The juggling Gizmo Guys
• Magician Sheldon Casavant
• KalabantĂ© Productions Afrique en Cirque
• Fred Penner

Anna Borowiecki: Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.