Choochokam:Defining the arts

As the 29th Choochokam begins, Chris Adams can’t imagine a 30th is around the corner. Heck, he still remembers handing out 25th anniversary commemorative T-shirts in 2000 to past directors and coordinators. But this week Adams, the art festival’s director, will begin his 12th year of starting his mornings with a bag of mini donuts and eating meals mostly consisting of gyros, curly fries and at least one brat heaped with saurkraut.

The festival is already underway, beginning last night at WICA with a performance by Cry of the Rooster Puppet Theatre, who brought their bi-lingual show “La Sal de La Tierra.” Tonight, South Whidbey will have its very first film festival when local camera buffs’ latests works are on display during “Movie! Movie! Movie!” Acts continue at WICA all week until this weekend’s big hooraw where around 130 artisans and craftsman will display their wares, and dozens of performers will entertain.

“It’s the biggest party of the year that you don’t have to throw,” said entertainment organizer Judth Walcutt.

Along with his small but hearty crew of vendor organizer Tom Moore, entertainment organizer Walcutt and administration assistant Tracy Peyton, Adams has worked long and hard on this week’s festival.

“It’s a landmark on South Whidbey so we try to put our all into it,” he said.

Things have been spiced up a bit this year, with entertainment coordinator Walcutt bringing in a number of Latin performance groups to add to the local musical talent. The festival has never focused on one style of music before, so Adams said he is excited to see how the experiment works.

The main stage will feature performances by (in order of appearance) on Saturday Correo Aereo, Show Brazil!, Lars Gandil, the Charlie Patnoe Jazz Combo, Beverly Graham, Jack Knauer, Tommy and da Sharks; on Sunday, Bahia, The Shifty Sailors, Janie Cribbs and friends, Bambula, and the Alma Villegas Quintet.

Simultaneously, the Langley Town Park will feature poets, singers and songwriters on a stage of its own.

“There were singer/songwriters out there people loved to hear but their sound would get lost on the main stage, and the park was just under utilized,” Walcutt said of the stage addition.

Beginning at 12:45 p.m. both days, Saturday expect poets Judith Adams, Eve Preus, Joni Takanikos, and singers and songwriters Beverly Graham, Yours Truly, and Stone Road; Sunday will bring storytellers and poets Grey Eagle, Susan Zwinger and Peter Lawlor, singers and songwriters Wayward Sister, Timothy Hull and Barbara Dunn.

All weekend, the Whidbey Children’s Theater will entertain the kids at the Gypsy Caravan stage setup in the parking lot of the Dan Porter Building. At 10:30 a.m. Saturday Island Strings students perform, and the rest of the day is devoted to mask-making, beading, juggling, face-painting, improv games, karaoke and open mic for kids. Don’t forget “The Music Man” at the Clyde.

As the festival has grown, so has its musicians.

“Charlie Patnoe’s been popping up in the local scene for the last couple of years so it’s been good to see a local kid grow and do good,” Adams said.

All of the live entertainment will be broadcast all weekend long on KSER 90.7, Everett, as “Live from the Islands” co-hosts Walcutt and David Ossman hit the streets with their production crew. It will be a one year anniversary for the radio show that first hit the airwaves during Choochokam 2003.

Around 130 vendor booths with various arts and crafts will line first street, with additional booths on Anthes between Second and Third. For the second year, food booths will be located on Anthes Avenue between Second and Third Streets. Langley Chamber of Commerce will also bring back their beer and wine garden, to be nestled in the shady area behind Whidbey Island Antiques. Entrance is on Anthes, between First and Second Streets and all proceeds help keep the visitor’s center open.

Adams got caught up in the excitement of the street fair when he came to the island in 1991, and has been helping with the organization in some way or another since.

During the process he’s learned a few Choochokam rules: You never know when transformers are going to blow. No matter what acts you book, the audience reaction is unknown. Saturday night street dances remain his favorite.

“It’s a part of Langley that remains timeless,” Adams said. “Young and old get out and have fun, and now there’s another generation of kids dancing who’s parents used to be the kids dancing.”

And Sundays always bring strong performances.

“There’s something about the festival almost being over that brings out the best in performers,” Adams said.

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