At the 2013 edition of Kidsfest, crazy obstacles will be conquered, feet will stomp, giant metal cubes will be juggled, a human hamster wheel will give acrobats a workout, and the creator of the serene feline Pete the Cat books will sing some cat songs.
And, oh yes, if Fred Penner has anything to say about it, the cat will come back.
The Kidsfest lineup is headlined by Step Africa!, a Washington, D.C.-based troupe that employs the traditional art of "stepping," in which the whole body is employed as an instrument to create rhythms and sounds through footsteps, clapping and spoken word.
"We used to do a lot of African-style programing, and Winnipeggers have always responded well to that," says festival executive producer Neal Rempel.
Also on the playbill are the Kamikaze Fireflies, a Los Angeles-based two-person vaudeville team who juggle, breathe fire, contort, and generally engage in old-school vaudevillian shtick. The members of the Mat Velvet & Charlie Show, out of Montreal, perform acrobatics in a giant wheel.
Eric Litwin, Atlanta-based author of the successful Pete the Cat books, puts down the computer laptop (or whatever writing instrument he employs) and picks a guitar, banjo and harmonica to sing songs and tell stories as Mr. Eric.
"Last year in Vancouver, they actually had to add shows with Mr. Eric, because those books are so very popular," says Rempel.
Penner, another kids artist who tends to be associated with a cat, will also perform with his Cats Meow Band.
The 31-year-old festival picks up some new tricks this year with the first Clown4Kids Fun Walk/Run at The Forks on Sunday, June 9, at 9:30 a.m. Registered participants are invited to negotiate a closed circuit obstacle course, starting and finishing at Scotiabank Stage, with obstacles including balls, noodles, balloons and hula hoops.
This year, Kidsfest runs June 6 to 9 at The Forks, rain or shine, along the banks of the Red and Assiniboine rivers in numerous venues, including "big top" tents.
"We are all covered and prepared for all manner of weather," Rempel says. "Kids aren't really put off by rain and puddles, but parents are a little less inclined to deal with them. But since we're the first major event of the summer after a long winter, it should be popular."
Advance tickets are $14 each or $48 for a family pack of four. Gate prices are $16 each or $56 for a family pack of four.
Children under two are free, and kids under 12 only need to pay once for the entire four-day festival, provided they keep their wristbands on. Kids' wristbands can be exchanged daily at the box office.
For more information about Kidsfest 2013 and to register for the Clown4Kids Fun Walk/Run, visit www.kidsfest.ca, or contact the Winnipeg International Children's Festival office at email@example.com or 204-958-4730. The toll-free number is 1-800-526-1515.
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For kids who have expressed a desire to run away and join the circus, Kidsfest offers a safer alternative: a new Summer Circus Camp for kids aged 10-16 from Monday, July 15, to Friday, July 19, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. An expansion of the fest's Circus and Magic Partnership (C.A.M.P.) outreach program, the camp teaches swinging trapeze, aerial hoop, aerial silk, juggling, rola bola, diabolo, juggling, plate-spinning, stilt walking, tight-wire walking, clowning and theatre games. Registration is $250, including lunches and snacks, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 204-958-4730.