Groups from Korea and China will entertain and educate parents and children alike at the International Children’s Festival. The annual event takes place Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 18 and 19, at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Vienna.
“The festival is designed to bring international performers into Fairfax County in order to have a global look at events,” said Ann Rodriguez, president of the Fairfax County Arts Council.
The festival — which has several co-sponsors but is coordinated by Wolf Trap, the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts and the Fairfax County Arts Council — is in its 34th year, Rodriguez said, and will be open to fifth-grade students starting Tuesday, Sept. 14. The festival will be open to the public Sept. 18-19.
“The school system feels its important to offer this to students,” Rodriguez said, adding that approximately 14,000 fifth-grade students will participate in field trips to the event.
In addition to performers from China and Korea, groups of local students highlighting arts native to Peru, India and Saudi Arabia will share the stage over the two-day event, with special performances for the fifth-grade students.
“There is a richness [to the local performers] not only of their dances or art but also of costume,” Rodriguez said. “The group performing traditional Indian dances, for example, had their costumes custom made and sent in from India,” she said.
A WORKSHOP TENT will feature arts and crafts demonstrations and a “special tent featuring electronic arts and technology,” she said. “One group will make masks in the crafts area, then go up to the electronic art tent to be filmed.”
While activities will take place in tents and other covered areas, weather may still play a part in how many people attend the festival.
“We’re in negotiations with the weather gods right now,” Rodriguez said, hoping for excellent sunny weather for the festival. “We’ve got our fingers crossed.”
“There’s a little kid in all of us,” said Charlie Walters, executive vice president and chief financial officer for Wolf Trap. “My four children went to the festival for many, many years, but they’re grown up now, so I go for myself.”
The Wolf Trap Foundation coordinates the work of the Arts Council, the park and the school system to provide this event for children every year, Walters said.
“We have all the facilities they need: the stage, the concession stands, the fields,” Walters said. Catherine Filene Shouse, founder of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, was a supporter of the festival when she was first approached about it in 1970, Walters said.
From Wolf Trap’s perspective, the festival is important because it “exposes the children to performing arts by using children from other countries or representing other countries in person, as opposed to sitting at home watching television,” he said.
“I truly enjoy seeing 15,000 or 20,000 kids, many of whom haven’t had the opportunity to see a stream or roll down a grassy hill, have the chance to enjoy the beauty of this park,” Walters said. “It’s so rewarding to see these kids from different countries interact with each other.”
“We live in a diverse community in the D.C. metropolitan area, and it’s great to be exposed to different cultures through the arts,” said Paul Jansen, coordinator of student activities and athletic programs with the Fairfax County Public Schools.
“For four days, we bring in about 3,000 kids for the performers, and they’re absolutely mesmerized,” he said.
The field trip, which occurs within the first two weeks of school for the fifth-grade students, is “a great way to kick off the school year. They’re coming off their summer vacation, and they’re energized and ready to go,” Jansen said, adding that teachers are able to build off the festival experience in the classroom after the trip.
“Fifth grade is the first time international history is brought into the classroom,” Jansen said, so the festival ties in “perfectly. It’s great to see things in 3-D as opposed to something they’d get out of a text book or video."
In addition to the international performances, Bob McGrath from "Sesame Street," Matt Gallant, host of “The Planet’s Funniest Animals” on the Discovery Channel and the comedy troupe New York Goofs will be featured.
Tickets for the Sept. 18-19 activities are available by calling the Wolf Trap box office at 703-218-6500 or online at www.WolfTrap.org. Cost for tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for children 3-12 or adults 65 and over, and children under 3 are admitted free of charge. Doors open both days at 10 a.m. and close at 4 p.m. The events will go on, rain or shine.