Assummer heats up and children on vacation run amok, what can be better than joining in the spate of action-filled activities currently underway in Ilan County and Taipei? At the Ilan International Children's Folklore and Folkgame Festival (2007宜蘭國際童玩藝術節) and 2007 Taipei Children's Arts Festival (台北2007兒童藝術節) there are water activities, games, exhibitions and performances by an international lineup of stage acts to educate and amuse both grown-ups and children alike.
Spanning some 50 days and running till the end of next month, the Ilan festival attracts thousands of children yearly to the grounds of the Tungshan River Park (冬山河園區), which has a vast array of waterfalls, pools, water labyrinths, slides and obstacle courses.
As always, traditional games feature prominently in the festival, and most popular of all this year's offerings is likely to be the festival's whip top section, which sports a collection of nearly 100 rare tops from Taiwan and Japan, including Japanese combat tops, hand tops, tops that can spin on snow and Taiwan's mini iron tops that measure just one centimeter in diameter.
Japan's top master, Ito Seiichi, and local top-making artists will hold demonstrations and top-making classes. Visitors are welcome to try out their whipping skills in top battles or enjoy the extreme-sports type of performances by local top teams.
At the folk toy and handicraft workshops, participants of all ages can make all sorts of arts and crafts using paper, clay, bamboo weaving and calabashes or experiment with metals and woods to create hand-made toys, all guided by local artists. Russia's acclaimed wood and fabric painting artist duo Sergey Kozlov and Natalia Rjumshina will take participants on a journey of their country's ancient folk art.
As the well-orchestrated international festival aims to expose kids to different cultures, over 20 performance troupes from 17 countries will transform the park into a global village with several daily shows on different stages. While folk dance and music groups from Cuba, Chile, the Cook Islands and Papua New Guinea march to island rhythms, Mexican performance troupes will keep the ancient Mayan culture alive with phenomenal aerial acrobatics and two taiko groups from Japan will pound out their powerful beats.
A new feature and a must-see of the activity-loaded festival is the global bazaar, which offers eye-popping collections of unique handicrafts brought by members of international performance groups and hand-made art items by local artists.
"It's the best place for treasure hunts and cultural exchanges. I remember last year a performance group from the polar region brought with them handicrafts made from unearthed mammoths remains ... . The bazaar certainly gives visitors a glimpse into the cultures and customs of distant places they may never visit in their lifetime," said Lulu Li (李璦如), an organizer from the Lan Yang Cultural and Educational Foundation (蘭陽文教基金會).
While the usually-tranquil Ilan County is bustling with activity, Taipei also has a three-week long fiesta of performances, workshops and film screenings for kids that runs through July 28.
The event's highlighted feature, Credo Theatre from Bulgaria, will take the stage this weekend to tell a warm and playful story about an elderly couple that lives in a remote village in Denmark. Incline Theatre from Canada will enthrall local kids next week with its original puppetry production, which involves a boy, a girl and a two-legged fish.