WEST LIBERTY, Iowa–In 1996, the recently opened Owl Glass Puppetry Center, home of the Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre, wanted to host an event to help the community get to know them better. Director Monica Leo had always enjoyed festivals, and the board president at the time, Mallory Smith, thought that they should create an event focused on West Liberty’s many young residents. From this brainstorming came the first ever West Liberty Children’s Festival.
From these early days, the festival grew into a much anticipated annual event, featuring puppet shows, family activities, and delicious food. Though COVID-19 led organizers to cancel it in 2020, they welcomed the opportunity to reconnect with the community this year with many fun attractions for the young and young at heart.
No West Liberty Children’s Festival would feel complete without puppet shows, and this year’s has many in store from both local and guest artists. In Ron De Voo Park, puppet troupes from Minneapolis, Minnesota; Champagne, Illinois; Saint Louis, Missouri; and Wisconsin will all perform, along with the Eulenspiegel Puppets of course. Children and their families may watch as many shows as they like for free. Due to Ron De Voo Park’s small size, organizers request all audience members wear masks.
Fortunately, kids can get free reusable masks of their own and decorate them however they like at a special mask decorating station. As a bonus, once kids have embellished their masks and put them on, a face painter can paint the rest of their face to go with the design they chose.
Just outside of Ron De Voo Park on Spencer Street, kids can test out 15 different types of bubble wands collected from all over the world. Street artists will wow crowds with their musical abilities and balloon animal twisting skills, and kids will marvel at the giant street puppets visiting town from Oskaloosa. Food vendors will have their stands set up nearby for families to get a tasty treat from, or people can step inside one of West Liberty’s downtown restaurants and enjoy a good meal out of the elements.
The West Liberty Children’s Festival will take place Sept. 11 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. However, several events on Friday afternoon and evening will get the weekend’s fun started a little early. From 1 to 5 p.m., Eulenspiegel will host three puppetry workshops. First, professional puppeteers will teach a class on how to use marionettes. Later, anyone interested in trying their hand at the increasingly popular craft of needle felting can learn how to do so from an expert. After school gets out, kids can attend a puppet making workshop at the West Liberty Public Library where they will create puppets of their heroes out of wooden spoons and use them to tell stories they come up with. Workshops cost $15 each or $40 for all three, but West Liberty Community School District students may attend the spoon puppet workshop for free. Friday night teens and adults wanting to show off their puppeteering skills can also participate in a puppet slam in Ron De Voo park at 7:30 p.m.
With so many fun events in store, Leo knows that this year’s West Liberty Children’s Festival will prove a big hit for all who attend. “They won’t be able to stay away–it’s so much fun!” she beamed.