Ilan braces itself for an invasion of kids

Hundreds of thousands of children-and adults-will head for the Ilan International Children's Folklore and Folkgame Festival this summer

By Max Woodworth  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fri, Jul 02, 2004 - Page 17

Tomorrow, normally tranquil Ilan County will suddenly become a lot noisier when it opens the doors on the

Ilan International Children's Folklore and Folkgame Festival (宜蘭國際童玩藝術節), Taiwan's largest annual tourist festival.

Stretching over the coming six weeks, the festival attracts hundreds of thousands of kids yearly with parents in tow to take part in participatory art and toy-making classes, play in the pools and water slides at Chinshui Park (親水公園) where the event is being held, and watch performances by an international lineup of stage acts.

This year, the Ilan County Cultural Affairs Bureau has expanded the range of activities by adding a special educational exhibit that focuses on Children's rights.

Announcing the festival on Wednesday, Ilan County Commissioner Liu Shou-cheng (劉守成) said the purpose of the exhibit was "to take the time while our children are having fun to teach them that there are kids in the world who live very difficult lives."

The children's rights exhibit won't darken the mood, though, as the park site is loaded with activities to keep kids in rapt attention.

Over 20 performance troupes from 17 countries on five continents will be on hand during the festival for several daily shows on five different stages, including a mobile ovoid stage designed specially for the occasion by one of Taiwan's leading architects.

A traditional dance and music troupe from Madagascar arrived early Wednesday along with a dance group from Brazil and offered a preview of their routines, which give a rare glimpse into these distant cultures. Other groups will come from countries as varied as Bulgaria, Georgia, Turkey, Congo and Portugal. Associated events will also be held the Ilan County Performing Arts Center, with daily shows by Taiwanese dance and theater troupes during the period of the festival.

Also this year, to cater to kids' endless fascination for magic, several magicians will occupy a special section of the park for demonstrations of tricks and to give children step-by-step instructions on how to perfect sleight of hand and other magic tricks. A hall of illusions has also been set up to give kids a chance to experience first-hand the effect of optical illusions and to teach kids, in the words of the organizers, "not to believe their eyes."

Sure to be one of the main attractions at this year's event will be the cartoon section, where exhibits will display some of the best-known international cartoons and explain how they are made. The exhibit will be a historical glance at the creation of cartoons up to the present-day animation studio works.

Animation artists will also be available to teach children to make short animation films that they can then save onto a compact disc to take home with them.

Toy makers from France, Russia and Japan will also be at the festival to instruct children on how to create their own toys to take home at the end of the day.

Throughout the festival site there will be mascots, which are cartoon characters exclusively designed for the event by renowned American artist Gary Baseman. The main mascot of the event is Hsiao-yu (小雨), whose 2D likeness will be directing the flow of traffic through the park to the different activity centers, each of which is represented by one of the cast of Baseman characters, including a dog, cat, astronaut and other unidentifiable creatures.

Baseman is the executive producer of Disney's Teacher's Pet show and the illustrator of the award-winning popular board game Cranium. His work plunders the traditions of Disney animation and Japanese manga to create characters that appear at once cute and slightly intimidating, with huge eyes that always appear to be looking unfocusedly into the distance instead of into the viewer's face.

Though his animations are shown on the Disney Channel, his work is also regularly exhibited in major museums, as it ranks among the best contemporary American art.

The inclusion of Baseman's art in the Ilan festival is an indication of the enormous resources put into the festival. The county government has spent a whopping NT$200 million on the festival in an extra push to promote the event after it was canceled last year due to the SARS outbreak.

County magistrate Liu on Wednesday brushed aside the massive cost of the project by saying, "To make kids happy is a good thing."

In fact, the festival is a huge revenue booster for the county, but the purpose of the event, Liu said was "to give parents and kids what they came for -- a good time."

Playtime

What: Ilan International Children's Folklore and Folkgame Festival (宜蘭國際童玩藝術節).

Where: Chinshui Park, 20-36 Hsieh-he Rd, Wu-chieh Township, Ilan County(宜蘭縣五結鄉協和路20之36).

Tel: (03) 950 2097.

When: tomorrow to Aug. 15 For more information, check http://www,folkgame.org.tw

Tickets: NT$350 on weekends and holidays, NT$250 on weekdays. The Taiwan Railway Administration is also offering single-day and two-day trips from Taipei to the festival and back for NT$1,360 and NT$3,800, respectively. Tickets must be purchased before July 14 at Taipei Main Station or at Hi Life convenience stores. For information, check http://souvenir.railway.com.tw