November 20, 2018

Festival is a great place for children to learn and play

For children, the National Folk Festival can provide “glimpses of the wider world, in a festive and fun atmosphere.”

That’s according to Andrea Stark, organizer for the Children’s Area and executive director at the nearby Maine Discovery Museum. “It’s a view that Maine children often don’t get a lot of,” she added.

The whole festival is appropriate for children.

“Years ago, there was less separation of music for children and adults,” Stark said. “Good music is for everyone.”

This year, she plans to bring artists from other festival stages to the Children’s Area so “the children can see the same performance in a more intimate venue.”

Performances will include:

. Punch and Judy puppetry with John Styles of London.

. Cajun music with the teenage performers of La Bande Feufollet from Louisiana.

. Taiwanese folk dance, lion and dragon dances, and Chinese yo-yo with teenagers from the Chinese Folk Art Workshop.

. Ghanaian drums with Kwabena Owusu.

A theme of making musical instruments from around the world will be brought in from the general festival Traditional Arts Area to the children’s craft area.

Recyclable materials will be put to use for the children’s project.

Unique to the Children’s Area is the active games center.

“We want to offer physical activity that is outdoors, safe, noncompetitive and fun,” Stark said.

The Forbes Flyers, a jump-rope team from Connecticut made up of children and adults, will display complex jump-roping routines and will teach some routines to the children.

Stark says concerns in Maine about childhood fitness and obesity make the possibility of reigniting enthusiasm for this traditional sport exciting.

The potential is there to “plant a seed” that could sprout into individual sports, or even organized team competition.

There also will be traditional games from around the world for families to try.

Tony Sohns and his Bug Zoo will be there again this year.

Children and families are always fascinated with the critters he brings and information he shares, Stark said.

There is no good method for tracking the number of children attending the festival, but Stark said she thinks it is safe to assume that at least 20 percent of last year’s 80,000 attendees were children.

That would mean 16,000 children.

Festival organizers expect attendance at the Children’s Area will increase this year because it will be noted this time on small festival maps distributed at the fair.

An additional entryway to the festival and a shuttle bus stop at West Market Square will be opened this year as well, putting the Pickering Square Children’s Area in a more prominent, less isolated location.

The Children’s Area will have food booths of a “kid-pleaser sort,” said Heather McCarthy, local coordinator for the National Folk Festival.

Offerings will include “dippables,” a variety of vegetables, cheese sticks or desserts, each with a dip; bags containing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, fruit and a cookie; and Italian ices.

Special needs will be taken into consideration again this year.

For example, a nursing tent and diaper-changing area will be available in Pickering Square.

Activities appropriate for disabled children and games for children who prefer quieter activities also will be provided.

Parents will be pleased to know that all staff and volunteers will be trained in lost-child procedures.

A lost-child center again will be located at the first aid tent, and announcements will be made from the stage to locate parents of any found child.

“We hope for good weather again,” said Stark. “But if it gets rainy, the museum will be opened and welcoming throughout the festival.”

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