Juan de Fuca Festival of Arts continues today

PORT ANGELES – The first time he heard the drums, he felt the calling to play.

Russel Baba and Jeanne Mercer have been playing taiko drums, traditional Japanese and contemporary drumming, for about 30 years now.

The couple were one of the many groups performing at the 14th annual Juan de Fuca Festival on Sunday.

The style of drumming began as a festival format and has now developed into a performing art, Baba said.

“In Japan the drums were originally made out of tree trunks” Baba said. “But in the U.S. we have made them out of wine barrels.”

The festival, which continues today at select venues, could be a record breaker, executive director Anna Manildi said Sunday.

“Saturday was probably a record-breaker,” she said.

Last year the festival drew about 18,000 people through the weekend.

Despite windy weather in the morning Sunday, she said, the seats were filling up at many of the venues

The festival will continue from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. today.

“Many times I’ll get calls and people will say that Saturday is the best day to go, but that is not true,” Manildi said.

“We make a concerted effort not to put all the ‘stars’ on one day.

“There are a lot of other things such as family obligations and other things that go into making the schedule.

“So there will be lots of fun stuff going on Monday as well.”

Performances will begin at 11 a.m.

Daily wristbands for adults are $13 for general admission and $12 for students and seniors.

Children 12 years old and younger will be admitted free.

Baba and Mercer mixed a traditional Japanese flute, a saxophone and other instruments with the drums.

“It took me a long time to incorporate other instruments in,” Baba said. “I was really concentrating on getting the style and technique down.”

The couple run a business in Mount Shasta, Calif., which teaches the art.

They have also begun a festival which features the drumming technique.

“This festival is really encouraging to see, because we are just at the beginning phases of ours,” Baba said.

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