Kidsfest set to deliver live laughter at The Forks in June

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Neal Rempel has an interesting word to describe this year’s edition of Kidsfest, which returns to Winnipeg June 9-12 for live programming.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/03/2022 (254 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Neal Rempel has an interesting word to describe this year’s edition of Kidsfest, which returns to Winnipeg June 9-12 for live programming.

“It’s going to be awesomepants,” says the festival’s longtime executive director.

For the last two years, the awesomepants had to be hemmed to fit an unfriendly situation: the pandemic meant the annual family programming extravaganza had to look to alternative methods of delivering children’s entertainment.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Gustavo the Impossiblist

In 2021, brilliantly, that meant hosting a drive-in version at the Red River Exhibition grounds. And while kids — and their harried parents — were grateful to watch those shows from afar, Rempel says he’s extremely excited to bring the festival back to its usual live format this year, with shows, workshops and roving performers scheduled to take over the CN Stage at The Forks as well as the Manitoba Theatre for Young People.

“We’re back, baby! And we’re going to do this the way we were meant to: live audiences, live artists, lots of laughs and lots of family memories,” says Rempel, who’s been involved with the festival since its inception in 1983.

There’s a lot to look forward to for kids and non-kids alike, Rempel says. Legendary performers Al Simmons and Fred Penner — who’ve also been festival mainstays since the start — are going to be performing. Beatboxer Ruplups will create live music with and inspired by the kids in the audience; Quebec’s the Kif Kif Sisters will bring “the funniest show you will ever see” to Winnipeg, Rempel vows; the Silver Starlets will leave spectators agog when they do their trapeze-centric show.

Musical duo Splash’N Boots will be in to play some of the hits, including Okey Dokey Artichokey and Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba Banana for their legions of blue- and yellow-wearing fans. Local elders Barb and Clarence Nepinak will share their storytelling skills, while St. Boniface’s Ti-Bert the Voyageur will regale the audience.

There’s a lot more: Roving performers will animate the site, roaming free to spread laughter and wonderment; arts and crafts will be done in equal measure; food trucks will be on site.

SUPPLIED Festival of Fools provides family fun in the form of acrobats to The Forks during spring break.

And before the big fest kicks off, the Festival of Fools is running from Saturday through April 1 at The Forks to give kids and guardians the chance to have family-friendly, affordable entertainment throughout the spring break holiday. Those shows happen on the second floor of The Forks market, with acrobats, unicyclists, magicians, and comedians sharing their talents at 12 p.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Capacity limits will be in place, as well as physical distancing. More information on both the Festival of Fools and Kidsfest is available at www.kidsfest.ca.

Rempel says he can hardly wait to finally share acts he’s been booking and unbooking throughout the pandemic, his own version of the 1993 film Groundhog Day.

“I don’t think there’s any way you can substitute the live arts performance experience with anything on a screen,” he says. “When you’re in front of a musician or a comedian, there’s a connection you’d never get anywhere else.”

After 40 years, Rempel still feels like a kid in a candy shop working on the festival.

“I have the best job in the world,” he says. “It takes about a year to put all the pieces together, and every year, I worry, ‘What if nobody comes?’ Then they do and I think, ‘Now we’re cooking with non-fossil fuels.’”

Wayne Glowacki/Winnipeg Free Press Files Juggler Mike Battie heats up the Festival of Fools at The Forks.

That’s always awesomepants.

ben.waldman@winnipegfreepress.com

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Ben Waldman

Ben Waldman
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Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.

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