Clowning around for the Penticton Children’s Festival

The Rotary Okanagan Children’s Festival wants everyone to get their red on. Their red clown noses, that is. Specifically, one of the ones they are going to be handing out on May 7, opening day for all three of Penticton’s summertime markets: the Farmer’s Market, the Community Market and Art under the Trees.

Barb Haynes of the Downtown Penticton Association tries on a clown nose to help promote the “gigantic clown-nose-photo shoot” that will be happening on May 7 at the intersection of  Main and Westminister. The event is a leadup to the International Children’s Festival

Barb Haynes of the Downtown Penticton Association tries on a clown nose to help promote the “gigantic clown-nose-photo shoot” that will be happening on May 7 at the intersection of Main and Westminister. The event is a leadup to the International Children’s Festival

The Rotary Okanagan Children’s Festival wants everyone to get their red on.

Their red clown noses, that is. Specifically, one of the ones they are going to be handing out on May 7, opening day for all three of Penticton’s summertime markets: the Farmer’s Market, the Community Market and Art under the Trees.

A group of supporters, including Mayor Dan Ashton, gathered Wednesday to try out the clown noses.

“We’re promoting the fun of the festival and trying to get people to think more of it as the kid inside of you, which is why we’re all wearing clown noses,” said organizer Crystal Froese. “We’ve got clown noses we want everyone to wear and we want a great dynamic photo … just celebrate the kid inside of everybody on behalf of the festival.”

The clown nose event takes place from 10:30 to 11 a.m. at the corner of Main and Westminster, which will be closed to traffic. They’re handing out 1,000 free clown noses and asking people to stick them on and join them in what they’re calling the “gigantic Clown-Nose-Photo Shoot” to help kick off the ninth annual Rotary Okanagan International Children’s Festival, which runs from May 26-28.

There are going to be some big changes for this year’s festival, starting with moving the Friday evening vaudeville show back to to the newly reopened Cleland Theatre. But the show itself is also being re-imagined, thanks to the creative mind of the festival’s new executive director, Conrad Burek.

A sketch comedy artist and former member of Kelowna’s Rubber Chicken Improv, Burek has a lot of experience getting people to laugh.

“It’s really his vision this year with the vaudeville show,” said Karen Durham, who said they are turning it into more of a gala fundraiser for the children’s festival. “The headline for vaudeville this year is Decorate Your Brain … there is so much to take in for the vaudeville show, such a variety of acts and sounds and sights.”

Durham describes the vaudeville evening as a selection of all the shows that will be appearing on the festival stages.

“It’s geared more towards adults and the whole family than just kids, which is the focus of the festival,” she said. And there is going to be a lot to see, with a lineup of acts from across Canada and around the world, fulfilling the festival’s mandate to bring the best in children’s entertainment to the South Okanagan.

“We have Circa coming from Australia. Their show is 47 circus acts in 45 minutes, so it’s a really fast fun show,” said Durham. “And Al Simmons is back. He’s one of the festival favourites with his Sounds Crazy show, all kinds of zany musical inventions and how they work.”

The festival also has two groups from Quebec on the schedule. Durham describes Mauvais Sort as the Great Big Sea of Quebec, with a “folk rock fusion vibe.” Bboyizm takes things to the other end of the musical spectrum, with their show featuring urban dance, the evolution of hip hop and urban dancing.

“We have something for everyone,” said Durham, listing off a variety of other acts, like Splash’n Boots, whose show features sing-alongs, catchy harmonies and the antics of the Toronto-based duo. On the open stages, there are high wire acts, and music ranging from the Circus of Sound to Winston and Eric Wuttunee, a father-son duo of aboriginal entertainers who perform in Cree, French and English, accompanying themselves on a wide variety of music.

Besides the performances, there are also venues dedicated to  everything from science and arts exploration to the Scouts Canada Adventure Bridge, where participants can test their courage on a bridge made from rope and logs.

Tickets for the festival go on sale Monday and are available at the Penticton and Wine Country Visitor Centre and online at the festival’s website, www.okchildrensfest.com. They will also be available in the festival’s tent at the Community Market on May 7.