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Kids' arts festival draws families (with photo gallery)

Saturday, June 5, 2010
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The artwork of a child recognizes the Gulf Coast crisis as drawn at the Electric City Arts and Entertainment Festival.
Photographer: Bruce Squiers
The artwork of a child recognizes the Gulf Coast crisis as drawn at the Electric City Arts and Entertainment Festival.

— Children and their parents strolled down the Jay Street pedestrian mall for the arts and crafts tables, clowns and street performers or gathered on the City Hall steps for music and other entertainment as hundreds turned out for an afternoon of family fun at the 16th annual Electric City Arts and Entertainment Festival downtown Saturday.

More than 100 festival attendees watched the antics of Seanoa and Shovah of Circus Theatricks. The show was half circus routine and half comedy routine, with plenty of audience participation and laughter.

Rachel Johnson, 10, a fourth-grader at Stevens Elementary School in Burnt Hills, was chosen by the duo to try walking on stilts for the first time. Rachel was guided most of the way by Shovah. After successfully walking a few feet, she was then asked to lie down on the sidewalk while Seanoa mounted the stilts and walked over her.

“I like being picked for things,” Rachel said after the performance, though she admitted to being a little scared of falling.

Her mother, Kelley Johnson, said, “She has no fear!”

Johnson herself was chosen as a volunteer during the show for some “artwork” done by Seanoa. Johnson posed for a portrait with a peacock feather in her mouth while also balancing on one leg. Instead of drawing a picture of Johnson, Seanoa drew the feather. Johnson later said she enjoyed the gag and added that this was her first time at the arts festival and she would like to come back next year.

It was also the first time at the festival for Nathan Leonard, 35, of Schenectady, and his three young children. Leonard was sporting a large hat made out of a paperback book with a small Christmas wreath glued onto it. One of his kids was working on a hat nearby, and Leonard said he couldn’t resist joining in the fun: “I just wanted to be a big kid.”

The arts fest, sponsored by community organizations, is all about kids’ participation. and there was plenty. Some of it was educational. One free-form painting project involved children creating images of what they hope the Gulf Coast will look like after the massive BP oil spill is cleaned up. The organizer of the activity said he wanted to raise consciousness and hoped to sell the paintings at some point and contribute the proceeds to a future cleanup effort.

A little less serious, but also educational, was the slime table manned by volunteers from General Electric. The opportunity for kids to make their own colored, gooey slime was one of the most popular activities of the day. Toward the end of the festival, Holly Commanzo, a chemist with GE Global Research, said nearly 300 cups of slime had been made. Children mixed together a concoction of Elmer’s glue, a small amount of Borax and water.

Commanzo said though many didn’t realize it, the kids were getting a lesson in chemistry. For others, the activity piqued their curiosity. “Some have asked how it works,” she said.

Commanzo also warned one child not to eat the slime, though she added that it would be about as harmful as swallowing toothpaste.

Plenty of kids were also attracted to another free-form painting project, a mural in which each child could paint a picture in a small square. Andrew Myers, 7, a second-grader at Zoller Elementary School in Schenectady, said he painted himself getting the right answer to an algebra question posed by his mom. Life then imitated art, as Myers correctly answered “3” to the problem “If 14 minus 2 equals 4B, what is the value of B?”

Christine Donohue of Scotia said she couldn’t help but make the short drive across the Mohawk River so her 5-year-old daughter could take part in all the fun: Rowan shyly said painting was her favorite thing to do.

Donohue said besides the arts festival, other events held in Schenectady make her a frequent visitor to the city year-round.

 
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