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Whistler Children's Festival welcomes dozens of entertainers

Norman Foote, Shao Lin Hung Gar Lion Dance Team and magician Leif David will keep families thrilled
Summer Joy Music, art and crafts are all on offer at the Whistler Children's Festival. File photo by Sean St. Denis for the Whistler Children's Festival

Norman Foote is in a travelling frame of mind that seems almost as passionate as his love of music.

"I've been writing a lot of songs about different places I've seen. I'm really big about writing about Whistler and the whole area," says the veteran children's entertainer.

The Juno Award winner spent years travelling in the U.S. and Canada, and he noticed one thing that impressed him about performers south of the border.

"Americans will write a song about anything. A mud puddle. A pencil. There's a famous saying about (19th-century American folk musician and composer) Stephen Foster — he went down and checked out the Swanee River because he hadn't even been there, and he said that if he'd known it was so small he wouldn't have written the song ("Old Folks at Home"). Chicago, New York, L.A., Nashville — all these cities have songs."

So Foote started taking the same approach with his own songwriting and outreach programs at schools.

"People should write about their lives in their home areas. We need to step up and write about our own stuff," he says.

One song Foote currently performs in his shows called "Travelling Man" embraces this.

"We're all on a journey in the song. It's all about Canadian cities and you have to guess the province," he explains.

"The audience has to yell it out. We play rhyming games with it, but I guess it's hard to rhyme something with 'Whistler.' It's a simple concept but it's very fun, it has been a great addition to my show."

Another new song, called "Chasing a Dream," is about the Yukon River and the paddlewheel boats there. It was written alongside "Travelling Man" in honour of Canada 150.

Foote is just one of dozens of performers appearing at the Whistler Children's Festival, which takes place from July 7 to 9 in Whistler Olympic Plaza. He performs at 6:45 p.m. on Friday, July 7, and 3:15 p.m. on Saturday, July 8.

Earlier this year, he completed a two-week residency in Pemberton, at Signal Hill Elementary School, and has previously worked with students at Spring Creek Community School in Whistler.

"At Signal Hill we wrote songs all about the Pemberton Valley, and we included language from the Lil'wat Nation. We wrote a theme song called 'Signal Hill,'" Foote says.

"It was a fantastic experience. I can't tell you how wonderful it was."

The visit was capped with a concert.

Jillian van der Geest of Arts Whistler says there are many cool additions to the festival this year.

"RupLoops from Vancouver is coming to perform as well as host a workshop. He'll teach workshop participants about creating music and rhythm with their bodies. Kind of like beatboxing 101 for kids," Van der Geest says.

"Also, if you have a 'well-loved' teddy bear or stuffed animal that could use some mending, Whistler Quilters will be on site with the Teddy Bear Hospital to fix up any holes or sew on some new eyes. Run your bear through the x-ray machine and get a clean bill of health for your furry friends.

"Even I've got a bear or two from when I was a kid who could use some TLC. Make sure you bring them along to get them checked out!" Van der Geest adds.

The Shao Lin Hung Gar Lion Dance Team and magician Leif David are also among the entertainment on show, as are Circus Fungus, Peter G-G and The Can-Do Band.

Local musicians Will Ross, Stephen Vogler, Jenna Mae, DJ Ira, and Jacquino and Monty Biggins are performing as well.

Workshops that are available include arts and crafts, art-bots, beading, drumming, creating birdhouses, dreamcatchers and lanterns. There are also magic and wearable art workshops. The prices for taking part range from $10 to $25.

A number of workshops require registration and are expected to completely fill up early.

There are also free activities.

The festival takes place from July 7 to 9. A full weekend entry pass is $15, daily passes are $10 on Saturday and Sunday. Adults over the age of 16 and children under two are free.