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Skies Clear for Children’s Festival

Performers and children enjoy weekend event at Wolf Trap.

With remnants of Hurricane Ivan out of the way and clear blue skies prevailing, the International Children’s Festival at Wolf Trap National Park wrapped up for another year Sunday with performances from around the world.

One of the weekend’s highlights was the return of Bob McGrath from "Sesame Street."

“This is my 15th year here,” McGrath said. “I came down Wednesday afternoon for rehearsals, then we went to the gala Friday night, and I did shows Saturday and today.

“I don’t know of any other international festival where kids can see acts from all over the world,” he said. “It’s fantastic for kids on many levels. Not only do they get to see great entertainment but they also get to see so many different cultures in one place.”

McGrath said the International Children’s Festival is similar to "Sesame Street," which is starting its 36th season on public television this fall, in that both try to show what’s the same with people, instead of focusing on differences.

“I feel very strongly that the arts are a vital part of every child’s life,” he said. “It’s a shame that [the arts] are being shortchanged in many places due to budgets. The arts are a direct link to a child’s imagination.

“Developing the imagination is the most important thing in anyone’s life, but especially a child,” McGrath said.

MCGRATH SAID he doesn’t get approached by small children as much as their parents or other people at the festival in their 20s and 30s.

“The performances are great,” he said. “It’s great to see the reactions of kids.”

He especially enjoyed seeing a group of children from China who put on a kung fu demonstration.

“They were phenomenal,” he said.

McGrath also enjoys coming to the festival year after year because it gives him a chance to perform alongside his friends Dick Monday and Tiffany Riley of “The New York Goofs.”

“I always look forward to seeing the Goofs,” he said. “They used to have a clown college down in Florida, and one year they brought all 35 of their clown graduates up here for the show.”

“It’s become a fall tradition,” Monday said. “It’s a great celebration at the end of summer.

“Summer is a grueling time for clowns. We’re very busy,” he said. “We have a ball here every year.”

The ability and the demand to have different shows for different audiences while at the Children’s Festival provide a nice change of pace for the Goofs as well.

“We perform at the gala for adults, which we love to do, and we have the kids’ shows all weekend,” he said. “Our home stage is out here in the woods. We get to watch people’s kids grow up,” he said.

“This is the best time we have all year,” said Riley. “We always have a great time. We’ve met every fifth-grader in Fairfax County for years and years.

“We do a lot of stuff around the world every year,” she said. “There really is a gathering of world cultures here.”

“These conditions are magical,” she said.

Early totals for the fund-raising toward next year’s festival stand at about $184,000, which exceeded the festival’s goal of $175,000, according to Laura Jackson from Action Solutions, a volunteer organization and one of the festival's partner groups.