20 years of Juan de Fuca Festivals of the Arts: ‘To see the world in four days’
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Sam Calhoun of Port Angeles hangs the first of many banners heralding the 20th annual Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts. Calhoun organizes the scores of volunteers who put on the four-day festival, which opens at noon today at and around the Vern Burton Community Center. -- Photo by Dave Logan/for Peninsula Daily News

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Karen Hanan, founder of the Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts, was still in high school when she put on her first show.

This was 1970 in Havant on England’s south coast, and she thought it would be fun to bring the band Magna Carta to town.

Hanan called the booking agent and offered 100 pounds, the equivalent of about $150.

After a stunned silence, the agent said, “Well, we’re going to be in your area. I’ll take your hundred pounds and a case of beer.”

Magna Carta came, and so began Hanan’s career in the performing arts.

That career took a leap forward in May 1994, when Hanan and a herd of volunteers put on the first Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts in Port Angeles.

Having moved to the North Olympic Peninsula in late 1993, Hanan didn’t sit around waiting for someone else to get something going.

This weekend, the Juan de Fuca Festival celebrates its 20th year with four days and three nights of music, dance, comedy, theater and visual art, all emanating from headquarters at the Vern Burton Community Center, 308 W. Fourth St.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity to see the world in four days,” said Hanan, who produced seven festivals before moving on to become director of the nonprofit Arts Northwest booking organization.

“There are world-class performers in your hometown,” she added.

But unlike events such as the Northwest Folklife Festival this weekend at Seattle Center, a fan can get to the stages without elbowing through a mob.

Although the Vern Burton center, a former high school gymnasium, is no Carnegie Hall, the Juan de Fuca folks have made do quite well, thank you.

Starting today, a cavalcade of performers from across the Olympic Peninsula and around the globe will arrive on the main stage, the Elks Naval Lodge ballroom stage and, in three sets of “After Hours” shows, a trio of smaller downtown venues.

Named as it is for Juan de Fuca, the Venetian-born explorer, the festival is about discovering new vistas.

Bands specializing in music from Mexico, Ireland, India and Argentina — along with abundant American jazz, blues, bluegrass and rock ’n’ roll — will hop up on the stages.

The Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars will bring reggae and African music to Port Angeles High School today in three concerts for local students from elementary through high school; the octet will take the main stage tonight at 8:30.

The world-fusion band Delhi 2 Dublin, the Latin band LoCura, the Balance Dance Co., the Groove for Thought vocal jazz ensemble and Danish unicyclist-comedian Henrik Bothe also are on the menu between now and Monday.

Surrounding it all are other activities, including:

■ The Art Shack inside the Vern Burton center, with workshops on drumming, personal mythology, greeting card-making and more.

■ The Street Fair, free to the public outside the Vern Burton, with more than 60 vendors open from noon to 7 p.m. today, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday.

■ Performances on the Vern Burton green, such as the Five Acre School Sound Waves Marimba Band today at 4:30 p.m., Sequim­arimba at noon Saturday and the Na Hula Ó Wahine ‘Ilikea dancers at 1:15 p.m. Sunday.

■ Open-mic afternoons on the Vern Burton green from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday; the Great Juan de Fuca Sing-Along with Tom Shindler at noon Sunday.

■ After Hours shows featuring main-stage acts at intimate venues starting at 10:30 tonight, Saturday and Sunday night at Bar N9ne, 229 W. First St.; Bella Italia, 118 E. First St.; and Next Door Gastropub, 113 W. First St.

Dan Maguire, executive director of the Juan de Fuca Festival, has sought to attract audiences that are more diverse than ever, age- and musical taste-wise.

This year, for instance, he’s using a Seattle Foundation grant to bring the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars, while booking bands such as the Barbary Ghosts and Houston Jones, who played the main stage at California’s Strawberry Music Festival.

“We’re a great West Coast festival,” Maguire said, on the level of Strawberry or Bumbershoot in Seattle.

“We’re right up there with them, except for the price,” he added.

Because Juan de Fuca is a nonprofit and receives significant support from local sponsors and members, ticket prices are below other multiday music and arts extravaganzas.

A full festival pass is $60 at the gate, while single-day passes are $20 for today or Monday and $25 for Saturday or Sunday.

These can be purchased at the Vern Burton center, while more information about all facets of the event is found at www.JFFA.org.

The festival “has always been progressive and experimental,” said Nancy Vivolo, a volunteer since 1994 who is now president of the Juan de Fuca Foundation for the Arts board of directors.

“We have an attitude of ‘Let’s try this,’” Vivolo said. Some things, like the hip-hop-grunge band booked the first year, haven’t drawn good crowds, and that’s “part of the growing process.”

For the arts-curious, “this is an opportunity to expand” by wandering into one venue or another to check out a new band.

“It’s like trying a new food,” said Vivolo: “Take three bites; try three songs.”

“The longevity of the festival is something I’m particularly proud of,” added Hanan.

“The town really has ownership of it, which is wonderful.”

________

Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 23. 2013 6:02PM
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