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IMG_1260I 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 Leo announcing the next festival event!

Monica Leo announcing the next festival event!

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 BurklanSunny Burkland from Albuquerque, NM worked with local school children for a few days before the festival to build a Tree of Life parade puppetd 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).

Eulenspiegel PuppIMG_1270ets’ Angela Polowy presented a shadow piece out of a suitcase, inspired by her dad.




Pam Corcoran, from Wisconsin, also worked with shadows with “Rock, Paper, Scissors”. IMG_1274And Monica presented a segment of her trilogy about her parents, along with Schultzy, featured here.


Saturday’s festival puppet kick-off was with Angela and Justin presenting Eulenspiegel Puppets’ wonderful circus show. They work so well as a smooth and expressive team, in voice and movement! IMG_1283 IMG_1285

A participatory street juggling show followed.






Then PEPPY PUPPETS from Missouri presented Peter Grows a Garden.IMG_1294

Local dance troupes enlivened the street.IMG_1315

Along with the tractor pull, with adult facilitators helping the kids to succeed! IMG_1295 IMG_1299











And back in the park was Jan Wolfe with WOLFE AT THE DOOR PUPPETS from Arkansas, providing Halloween spirit with Goldilocks and the Three Boos. IMG_1330 

We puppeteers had a blast hanging out “backstage”.

Pam Corcoran and Brian Henning, fromOmaha.IMG_1292

Sunny, me, Michelle from Peppy Puppets, and Jan Wolfe:


Meanwhile, back on the street:


IMG_1302 IMG_1304 IMG_1305 IMG_1307 IMG_1308 IMG_1311 I met the young man in the crown – an exchange student from Turkey, getting a warm experience of American culture!

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Back in the park, CORCORAN PUPPETS from Wisconsin presented Queen of Hearts.IMG_1338

And I closed with Calliope Puppets The Fisherman and His Wife.Calliope Calliopeaudience

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!

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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!

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