24th Children's Festival ready to POP on Saturday

Puppet shows, bubble stations among free attractions for families


The 24th annual West Liberty Children's Festival, sponsored by Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre, will take place this Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. on Third Street in downtown West Liberty.

The festival will take place until 3 p.m. with a schedule full of performances, crafts, and activities, officials reemphasized this week. Following the Children’s Festival, Latinos Unidos takes over the street with Fiesta Latina, featuring lively music from 3-10 p.m., a parade and other family activities.

This year’s festival will include a puppetry mini-festival, featuring performances by Corcoran Puppets from Wisconsin; Jeanie Puppets from St. Louis; Ginger Lozar’s Puppets from Champaign, Illinois; Seth Eberle from Minneapolis; and, of course, the local Eulenspiegel Puppets. Organizers say the puppet shows will include some old favorites as well as several new performances.

Strolling performers scheduled for the event include puppeteer Brett DeBruyn, giant puppets by Brant Bollman of Oskaloosa, musicians Kalimbaman and the Yahoo Drummers, as well as Toto Johnson, a balloon twister artist. The Kalimbaman group is an annual visitor to the festival and creates Kalimba music using “simple instruments,” some of which youngsters can try to play themselves.

Youths and families are encouraged to get their pictures taken with some of the strolling puppets and entertainment acts.

Bubbles everywhere!

But the festival isn’t just about the puppets. A special feature of the festival this year will be the creation of 15 bubble stations featuring bubble wands from all over the world. Those bubble stations will be put together by Rick Eugene Brammer, a Davenport magician who developed an “Absolute Science” feature to his array of entertainment something he started just two years ago before the pandemic.

Located on Spencer Street and free to all participants, Brammer says he has the largest mobile bubble show in the nation and can create up to 300 kinds of bubbles with his wands, although not all of those wands will be available Saturday.

He said youths and adults both enjoy the bubble stations that can produce heart, star, Christmas tree, floral and all kinds of different bubbles using a special formula of soapy watr that he says creates “longer-lasting, bigger bubbles in the outside air that simply don’t evaporate. He said the wands come from around the world including Russia and Europe and can create some very unusual bubbles.

Brammer said he’s hoping for a calm day, noting he will be on hand to help youngsters and adults create bubbles, noting he’s also hoping to be able to teach participants how to blow bubbles inside a giant bubble, noting the record was set by a young girl at 17 just recently, competing against her dad.

A magician for 25 years going by the name of Rick Eugene, Brammer says his bubble stations have become extremely popular throughout the Midwest and should be a lot of fun for local residents.

Organizer Stephanie Vallez said youngsters will have an opportunity to create “glorious, giant bubbles to float down the street!,” she said. “You can fill the bubbles with your worries and watch them float away or burst!”

Funny faces

Another special feature will be the mask-decorating station put together by the Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre, making masks using non-toxic permanent markers.

Youths may decorate the washable, reusable masks, then have their face painted by Linda Kelty, who will decorate the top half of their faces to match! Youths, who may become super heroes with the masks, will be expected to wear the masks in Ron-de-Voo Park to keep everyone safe in the small space, officials point out.

The festival also offers food, beverages, a Mexican market, a running miniature train that will provide rides for youngsters, a performance by the West Liberty High School Mariachi band, and a host of children's games and activities. Performances will take place in West Liberty’s lovely downtown gathering place, Ron-de-Voo Park.

The West Liberty Public Library will be providing mask lanyards. “Masks are the fashion statement of the event,” Vallez said.

Other activities, information

Street activities will feature a large roster of games and make-and-take crafts, including the bubble stations, sponsored by various organizations including face painting, easel painting, puppet making, and many crafts and activities.

An old attraction brought back this year by local business owners Lisa and Jason Wertzbaugher of West Liberty will be a giant sandbox. “The little ones love a sandbox,” said Vallez.

To keep hunger at bay, attendees can feast on Mexican delicacies, popcorn, Mexican ice cream bars (paletas) and other goodies. Chinese, American, and Mexican restaurants on the street will also be open for business in the neighborhood.

Many local businesses and organizations will be participating. West Liberty State Bank is bringing a Nerf battle, MidWest One is planning free popcorn, The West Liberty Youth Dream Catchers are offering snow cones. Rotary of West Liberty will be providing a free COVID-19 vaccination station for anyone still in need of a vaccine from noon to 3 p.m. and will also have other activities for youths. West Liberty Lions Club will also have a booth, providing information about their organization after donating $150 toward the festival.

Tharp Law is returning with their legendary marble painting and the West Liberty Area Arts Council will bring out the easels for children to draw or paint pictures.

There will also be a benefit drawing for a 35 gb Generation 8 Apple iPad and tickets will be on sale at a booth at the festival to benefit the expense of the four Latino bands that will begin to perform at 3 p.m. that afternoon as part of Fiesta Latina.

Chances are also available at the New York Dollar Store on Calhoun Street. The new iPad was donated by Tom Brooke and Bill Koellner, local volunteers and community supporters.

One of the highlights of the Fiesta Latina (features in Spanish and English on page four of this week’s Index) will be a 4:30 p.m. parade that will form on Spencer Street at 4:15 p.m.

Any individuals or groups are welcome to participate as the parade will travel around the block according to Francisco Martinez, the organizer of the Latino portion of the day.

The West Liberty Children’s Festival is supported by the Ryan Trust and many generous local donors including Yolanda’s Salon, as well as residents Bill and Jan Koellner and Tom and Mary Pat Brooke. It is sponsored by Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre Company.

For further information about the Children's Festival, call 627-2487 or e-mail .