Friday, June 16, 2006

The Smoky Hill River Festival last week

I can hardly believe a week has gone by since the first day of the 30th annual Smoky Hill River Festival. I've been a bit busy, to say the least.

I love this festival. I even love it when it's 100 degrees fahrenheit, when nobody has energy, when I can't remember any stories in my repertoire, when my hands are melting inside the puppets, when I'm drinkng fifteen bottles of water just to keep minimally hydrated. That's how Friday and Saturday were. Sunday was cooler, audiences and performers were more lively, and it was generally an easier day.

Here's what I love about the festival:

The crowds are friendly and the general atmosphere is relaxed. Everybody expects to have a good time, so they do. There's a strong sense of tradition--people come back year after year.

It's big fun to perform on the Storytelling Stage, a separate venue from the Children's Stage. Over in this shady tent, I often get groupies, kids and adults who have seen me at the festival in the past or in other venues. I'm happy to fill requests and to tell stories they might not have heard before. Newcomers to storytelling also come to the tent to see what it's all about. It's especially nice when families come to the stage and sit for hours listening to one storyteller after another.

The other performers are always high-caliber, and great fun to hang out with in between sets and afterwards. This builds the appreciation for storytelling in Kansas. This year, the National Storytelling Network is giving Sharon Benson of the Salina Arts and Humanities Commission a regional award for bringing so much storytelling to Kansas, both for the festival and for the Arts Infusion program in the schools. This year Sharon brought in Eth-noh-tec, Ricardo Provencio, Joyce Slater and me.

Because I rove around the festival grounds with a puppet, I get to make people laugh while enjoying the music from both stages (Trixie and Mavis both love to dance), the arts, the crafts, the children's activities and the food.

Did I mention the food? Yum. I don't go in for the seafood quesadillas (in Kansas in the summer? Yikes!) or the giant turkey legs, but my favorites are the Indian tacos, Italian sausage, homemade vanilla ice cream and fresh squeezed lemonade.

On top of all this, the festival staff and volunteers take great care of the performers. They understand the limitations of an outdoor festival (heat, humidity, etc.) and make a real effort to help us out so we can perform at our best.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

No wonder you like the Smoky Hill River Festival! It sounds like a lot of fun.