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Dance little sister (and brother), dance

The Whistler Children's Festival is back with a dance party, workshops and Plenty of performers

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Families are foremost at the Whistler Children's Festival.

Now in its 32nd year, the festival is older than a lot of parents attending it — and this year there are changes to make the party more inclusive and more fun than ever.

A summer institution — last year, 5,000 people participated in the festival in blazing hot weather — it now has an extra day promising to be even more entertaining.

New this year is a free Kick-Off Dance Party, taking place on Friday, July 10, from 5 to 7 p.m.

"We're excited about this upcoming festival," says Lucie Lareau, events and programming manager at the Whistler Arts Council.

"Plans are going really well. We've got everything in place, we've got all the performers, all our workshops are happening, so we're happy with the way things are lining up.

"We've all been a child at one point in our lives, so it is to remember that time and come and dance on Friday night and celebrate a beautiful summer."

All festival events are outdoors and take place in Whistler Olympic Plaza.

Picnics are welcome, Lareau adds, and there will be plenty of free entertainment and activities on hand at the dance party, including the roving bubble-maker Tomas Truchau, who will pop by (or his bubbles will) and clown and mime to make everyone happy.

Circus Fungus, made up of popular performers, return to the festival with stilt walkers, fire dancers, puppeteers, storytellers, and more.

Also performing is Ira Pettle, who will get the dance party going at 6 p.m.

"Ira is coming to animate the dance party and get everyone grooving to the music," Lareau says.

There is also face painting, balloon hats, and a photo booth — all free in the evening.

"Everyone is welcome to come and participate," Lareau says.

As always there are paid-for workshops, some new, some not.

What is definitely different this year is entry into the weekend workshops at the Whistler Olympic Plaza on Saturday and Sunday.

"There is a fee to get into the site, but when you register your child for a workshop, entry to the festival is included in the price. It's a really good deal. We thought we'd make it easier. This year it's an all-inclusive price."

Since it is $10 for children to get into the festival ($5 for adults), this means signing a child up for a $14 workshop means saving $10 in the overall cost of entry.

"We encourage adults to participate with their children. We have more workshops that are experience-based and you can take something home," says Lareau.

Whistler Potter Club members are creating a clay installation that will be up throughout the festival.

"And everyone can come by and get a piece of clay and add to it. This installation will grow throughout the weekend. We have a nice, big painted mural as well. There are a lot of nice things where people can collaborate."

Children from 18 months to two years old can participate in a preschool activity camp, getting their faces painted.

"African Stories is also good with young kids," says Lareau.

"Artist Jacky Assombe tells them they have become a lion and to act like a lion. She goes through the animals of the jungle.

"Another new thing, a group of circus performers have designed a Circo-Circuit throughout the day for kids nine and over. People can come and try out different things — rola bola, tightrope walking, juggling, the unicycle, and acrobatics.

"We have different elements of the circus that people can participate in. It's more interaction."

Lareau was also excited by the attendance of Vancouver storyteller Leonard Spanga and his stories on wheels.

"He comes and tells the most marvelous stories," she says.

Popular entertainer Norman Foote is also returning to Whistler.

He was in Whistler earlier this year, working with the youngsters at Spring Creek Community School.

"We did song writing and had a big concert. The kids really were great," he says.

"We've put the invite out for them to come and join me (at the children's festival). There were something like over 100 kids in the choir. They were very good, a lot of energy."

Foote is going to perform "a smattering" of all his tunes from his long career in order to a have musical and comedic conversation with the audience.

"I work at getting a response out of the audience," he says.

"Certain things that are funny are universal."

Foote plays onstage at Whistler Olympic Plaza on Sunday, July 12, at 2 p.m. The performance, like all main stage performances, is free with festival entry.

The festival is also looking for volunteers, who will be able to choose their own schedule. Volunteer shifts are morning and/or afternoon on Friday, July 10, Saturday, July 11, and Sunday, July 12.

There are perks, prizes and a wrap-up party. For more information contact the Whistler Arts Council.

For more information on the Whistler Children's Festival, visit www.whistlerchildrensfestival.com.

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