By Marcy Stamper
Celebrate beauty and creativity — and their local and global expression — at “It’s a Colorful World,” this year’s July 4 celebration in the Twisp Park.
Methow Arts’ 30th-annual arts festival, which starts right after the Independence Day parade in Twisp, features music and dance performances from around the world — and myriad ways to participate, from hands-on art projects to full-on immersion in dance and other kinetic activities.
Visiting artists include Gansango Music & Dance, a Seattle-based troupe that specializes in traditional and contemporary music and dance from West Africa. Gansango’s members, who come from Benin, Togo and Ghana, blend these diverse traditions with a fresh vibe.
Expect percussion on the djembe and djun-djun, shakers and bells, and vivid costumes connected with ceremonial dances, social dances, and royal dances from the 19th century. Gansango founding member Etienne Cakpo is a choreographer and teacher in Seattle, and he and the group will teach dance moves to the audience after their performance.
The Methow Valley’s own marimba ensemble, Hoodoo Marimba, returns to the arts fest this year, after wowing festival-goers in their first appearance last year. “Everybody loved them so much that they’re doing it again,” said Amanda Jackson Mott, executive director of Methow Arts.
Their marimba music, with its multi-layered, intricate rhythms, is traced to ancient musical traditions of the Shona people of Zimbabwe. Marimba means “singing wood,” which will be palpable in the instrument’s resonant vibrations and in the music’s energetic tempos.
Singer-songwriter Naomi Wachira, another African transplant to Seattle, will close out the afternoon with music inspired by her native Kenya. Wachira has blended these roots with other folk traditions — including Miriam Makeba and Tracy Chapman — to create music she describes as “poignant, hopeful and life-giving.”
Wachira was named “Best Folk Artist” by Seattle Weekly in 2013. In her most recent album, “Song of Lament,” Wachira seeks to “acknowledge and celebrate our differences and similarities.”
Lots to do
While the main acts are based in African music and dance traditions, the dozen hands-on art booths at the festival draw on many other cultures. People can make bottle-cap art in the tradition of Mexican Day of the Dead sugar skulls, which celebrate folk art with their exuberant color and glittery adornments.
They can create Tibetan Buddhist sand mandalas, or South African ndebele dolls from painted fabric and beads At another booth, people can make their own version of dream catchers, prized in some Native American cultures for filtering good from bad dreams.
The arts festival always offers informal community art projects where everyone can contribute. Local artist and sculptor Bruce Morrison will lead a massive kite-making project from 10 a.m. to noon, inviting people to adorn a huge piece of fabric and to compose messages on long textile strands that will be strung together for the kite’s tail. The entire assemblage of fabric and branches will be hung between trees at the park.
Another community effort — perfect for the youngest artists — is an opportunity to “paint the universe” on a vast sheet of paper that will be spread out on the lawn. The project is a tribute to Little Star Montessori School founder Rayma Hayes, who died earlier this year, and who encouraged her young students to paint the earth, the moon and the entire universe.
Dancing isn’t the only chance to get up and move at the festival. Festival-goers can sign up to experience the allure of aerial gymnastics on rigging set up by the Methow’s own aerialist, Sarah Prochnau.
You can also be the subject of art — or a canvas for it. Jeff Palmberg, pastor of the Community Covenant Church, will render caricatures, and several people will be on hand to decorate people with face-painting and glitter.
Food and drink comes from several local vendors and builds on the international theme. La Fonda Lopez is offering a taco bar; Rocking Horse Bakery is making East Indian wraps; Willowbrook Farm will serve up brats and local kraut; and the Fork food truck is providing sandwiches, burgers and ice cream. Beverages include Blue Star Coffee Roasters’ iced brew and a beer garden run by the Old Schoolhouse Brewery.
Eating is also a competitive — and spectator — event at the arts fest. There will be three pie-eating contests organized by age group. Aspiring pie-eaters must sign up when they arrive, because the contest spots fill quickly.
There will also be demonstrations of native skills by the Methow Valley Interpretive Center, and frisky baby goats from Sunny Pine Farm.
Admission to the arts fest is $5 for ages 5 to 15 (which includes five free booth tickets) and $12 for adults (no booth tickets included). Kids 4 years and under are free. Advance tickets — including a special group package of $36 for four adults (which includes five free booth tickets) — are available online at brownpapertickets.com. There is a service fee when purchasing tickets online. Free tickets are available to clients of The Cove food bank and Room One.
Depending on the activity, hands-on art booths cost from one to several tickets.
Volunteers — still needed — can also get in free, and receive a snazzy T-shirt with a raven image created by Bryan Putnam. To volunteer, call Methow Arts at 997-4004.
The festival gets going at 11:30 a.m. in the Twisp Town Park on Tuesday (July 4).