The Children’s Festival Provides a Colourful Experience for Kids of All Ages

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Photos by Emily Cordonier

The annual Ottawa Children’s Festival is always popular destination for school groups, but it’s also a great spot for parents with younger preschool aged children and even toddlers. This year, I took my two children, ages 4 and 2 years old, and they had a wonderful time (even if they were too young for some of the attractions).

Photo by Andre Gagne

While there are many performances that require ticket purchases, the Children’s Festival also offers an impressive array of free on-site attractions. My two loved the Mad Hatter Tea Party, where actors brought some of their favourite characters from ‘Alice in Wonderland’ to life with the help of puppets. The comedic show got the kids laughing and dancing, and concluded with a special cup of “tea” for all the children.  

Another favourite was the Long and McQuade instrument petting zoo, where children got the chance to play trumpets, trombones, ukuleles, bongo drums and shakers.

From there, it was on to the 100-watt Earth Stage. The performing arts tent was a place children could be both the audience and artist. Young artists, aged 20 and under, took the stage to perform theatre, music, poetry, visual arts and dance. When we entered the tent, a talented 9-year-old girl was on the stage telling a fairy-tale story. My kids hung on her every word (even the 2-year-old!) The story teller did a fabulous job, and had an inspiring effect on my son Lucas, who proceeded to hound me as to how he could get a chance to tell his own story on stage. 

Russel T. Wrecks, the Tyrannosaurus, was also a huge hit with kids of all ages. Russell is part of a theatrical work titled ‘Dinosaurs in Motion’. Russel was all too happy to stop for a selfie with anyone who was brave enough to get near those teeth!

The biggest line-up parents faced at the festival was for the talented artists of Kromatik face painting, who provide their services for free. They call it high speed face-painting and the finished products are impressive! We opted to not do the face painting this time around, as my kids weren’t convinced the artists would do a “spider-man” face for them.

While we mostly opted to enjoy the free festival attractions, I did purchase tickets to one thing – Katena Luminarium. Katena Luminarium was like nothing I had ever seen before, and I hoped it would be something a toddler and preschooler would enjoy. Fortunately, it didn’t disappoint! Katena Luminaria was created by the Architects of Air, out of the United Kingdom. It consists of huge, giant inflatable tubes filled with light and colour. The structure is inspired by Islamic architecture and visitors are welcome to wander freely and take it all in.

I sat down with my four-year-old son Lucas after our eventful morning at the festival to get his opinion on Katena Luminarium, and everything else we had experienced at the 2017 Children’s Festival.

Ottawa Life: Lucas before you went into Katena Luminarium you were given some very specific instructions and rules. What were they?

Lucas: You had to take off your shoes and when you went inside you had to be calm and quiet. No running around, but you were allowed to lie down and look around. You also had to be very careful around all of the walls because they were thin and delicate, and they could pop – like a balloon! I did a good job following the rules, but my sister Rowan didn’t always. Most importantly stay with your adult! And adults stay with your kids.

What was it like inside the Katena Luminarium light tunnels?

There were colours everywhere. It was like being in the Trolls movie. Every room you went in had a different colour and some places were warm and others were not as warm. It was really cool. Especially the green parts, because that’s my favourite colour. Rowan’s favourite was purple.

Other than the light tunnels, what was your favourite part of this year’s Children’s Festival?

I really liked shooting the bow and arrow at the archery booth. Just like Robin Hood. I also really liked getting to play the trumpet at the tent with all the instrument. I actually made a sound come out! And it was great getting all the free stuff – like a chicken hat, a balloon and a tattoo.

Was there anything that you would have liked to see at the Children’s Festival that wasn’t there this year?

Mini donuts. I really missed the mini donuts. Do you think they were there and we just didn’t find them, mom?

Sorry buddy, we did look. But we couldn’t find any mini donuts. That was the only thing though?

Yeah, it was really fun. I hope we go again next year. I just hope there are mini donuts next year too.