I am most honored to have been invited again to perform at the West Liberty, Iowa 18th Annual Children’s Festival two weeks ago. First, let me tell you a bit about the town. The diverse population of around 3,000 includes a large number of families with Mexican roots, along with the native Iowans, and boasts an excellent Spanish immersion program in the public schools. A significant part of the economy is based on a large turkey packing plant, with the town providing the necessities of life in a walkable downtown area featuring one florist, one Chinese restaurant, a few Mexican restaurants, a law office, a coffee shop, a couple bars, etc. And a vibrant and thriving puppetry center: Eulenspiegel Puppets, the work of Monica Leo, this year celebrating the 40th year of her company. Aside from state-wide, national, and international touring of shows and school residencies featuring solo work, as well as collaborations with various partners, Monica originated and leads the Children’s Festival – the largest annual event in the community. A full day of puppet theater presentations in the lovely pocket park, community dance and other performing groups, and lots of simple and creative activities for children take over the downtown for the day.
Monica and I have talked over the years about how much impact one person can have in a small community. Of course one individual’s efforts make an impression anywhere, but it is truly impressive to see Monica Leo’s impact on West Liberty!
This is my snapshot view of the event.
Sunny Burkland from Albuquerque, NM worked with local school children for a few days before the festival to build a Tree of Life parade puppet, modeled here by Eulenspiegel Puppets’ Justin Cornett-Olsson.
A Puppet Slam was held at the local coffee house/wine bar. All Children’s Festival participants, along with other enthusiastic puppeteers, were invited to present short pieces for adults. I brought a piece especially from my state about our governor’s support of Intelligent Design (featuring as one element, New Orleans’ Dave Bartholomew’s jem, “The Monkey Speaks His Mind”, with puppet illustrations).
A participatory street juggling show followed.
We puppeteers had a blast hanging out “backstage”.
Sunny, me, Michelle from Peppy Puppets, and Jan Wolfe:
Meanwhile, back on the street:
A celebratory pizza lunch back at Owlglass Puppetry Center for all the puppeteers, and other festival participants. I must mention Monica’s assistant Cara McFerrin, an incredible powerhouse of organization!, unfortunately not pictured because she was never still long enough to catch her!
So, that was a wrap on a wonderful event, clearly pulling this community together annually! And I got to see the much smaller Mississippi River in Muscatine, on the way to the airport back to New Orleans!
Thanks, Monica, for always being an inspiration in creativity and energy!