Willow Kramer

Willow Kramer

Variety spices up Juan de Fuca festival

PORT ANGELES — You have your choice of experiences at the Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts today.

There’s the big stage with the eight-piece Latin dance band Locarno, featuring members of the Paperboys, at the Vern Burton Community Center this afternoon. Or there’s a couple of acoustic guitar virtuosi, Paul Chasman and Brooks Robertson, aiming to fill the Chamber Stage with their songs. And then there’s jazz singer Halie Loren, whose voice one critic called “an incredible blend of mind and heart,” also on the Chamber Stage.

Those are four of the 10 acts finishing out the festival, Port Angeles’ 19th annual pageant of music, dance, visual art. Oh, and of course there’s food to keep audiences fueled, from Greek to Thai to mini doughnuts.

“I like all the culture, the all sorts of different things that come together,” said Grace Sanwald, a 13-year-old from Port Angeles who stopped by the festival store with her mother, Laura Brogden. Together, they eyed the CDs from festival performers Zili Misik, a seven-woman band from Boston that dished out Brazilian, Haitian and West African music on the main stage Saturday evening.

Zili, with its drums, horns and voices, propelled Ruth Maguire, 87, out of her seat and into the whirl of people who also couldn’t stay still.

Good time dancing

“I had a good time dancing,” she said, adding that another Saturday highlight was her chance to soak up the sound of the Portland Cello Project, a kind of big band that plays pop and art songs.

Maguire didn’t stop there; she also checked out Impossible Bird, the Seattle duo that packed the Chamber Stage with soulful singing, fiddling and guitar playing. At one point between songs, Scott Nagel of Port Angeles turned to the people behind him and said simply, “That’s pretty incredible.”

The Chamber Stage — the Port Angeles City Council Chambers the rest of the year — is connected to the Vern Burton center by a breezeway adorned by art work by students from across Clallam County. And yet another visual display awaits inside the Art Shack, a showcase of local artists off the main entrance to the Vern Burton.

The festival’s final art class, an accordion book workshop with Port Angeles artist and graphic designer Laura Alisanne, is open today from 2 p.m. till

4 p.m. It takes just half an hour or so, Alisanne said, to learn her “paper batik” technique and handcraft a one-of-a-kind book.

This activity is ideal for adults, teens and children as young as 7, provided they have a grown-up helper along.

“What you’ll need,” Alisanne has said, are “patience, an experimenter’s spirit and a willingness to get your hands a bit messy.”

All around the Art Shack, the Juan de Fuca Festival is a riot of color and sound. Children, their faces freshly decorated at the face-painting booth, run and dance on the grass outside the Vern Burton; women show off their sparkly and temporary henna tattoos; lots of people stroll among the vendors with a cone and scoop of the most popular ice cream flavor: wild mountain blackberry.

There’s music out in front of the Vern Burton center too: Today, the Luck of the Draw will play bluegrass and country at 1 p.m. and Zaya, a Port Angeles marimba band, will play music of Zimbabwe and other African countries at 2:30 p.m.

These performances are free, as is the street fair with art and craft vendors wrapped around the center. To see today’s main stage and Chamber stage acts from 11:45 a.m. till about 5:30 p.m., it’s $17 at the ticket booth outside the Vern Burton. As ever, though, children 12 and younger get in free.

Making their first foray to the Juan de Fuca Festival this weekend — instead of going to the Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle — were Lew Wallon and Connie Decker.

The Tacoma couple, who work for the nonprofit musicians’ cooperative Victory Music, especially enjoyed the sets by a pair of solo artists: singer, ukulele and guitar player Scott Cook and fingerstyle guitarist Mary Flower.

“At this point, I like [the Juan de Fuca Festival] better than Folklife,” Wallon said Sunday afternoon. “The crowds are much smaller. You can get closer to the musicians.”

The nonprofit festival, with more than 50 acts and some 85 performances on seven stages, is run by two staff members, executive director Dan Maguire and education coordinator Carol Pope — plus about 150 volunteers.

Two of those volunteers were Mary Jahns and Jacob Woods, both 17 and working in the festival store. Between sales of T-shirts and CDs — including those of Scott Cook, which sold out — the two teenagers talked about why they came.

“I like walking around the market and listening to the music outside,” said Woods.

Jahns added that she especially enjoys the chance to immerse herself in the variety — of art forms, local and nationally known musicians and people from around the West.

“It brings the whole neighborhood together,” she said.

________

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

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