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Making the Fest a Family Affair 

Every year it's the same dilemma: what to do with your kids during the Fest? Should you leave them at home with a sitter or resign yourself to spending the day in the kids' tent? Karen Konnerth, The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival's children's program coordinator, offers a diplomatic solution.

"We advise people to look at the schedule of the whole festival and pick some things the adults want to do and some things the kids want to do," she says. "This way the grownups won't feel they're stuck at the kids' area all day. It's good for the kids to see other things at the festival, too."

This year's kids' tent lineup might tempt some parents to stay around longer than they originally planned. New acts include Curly Ennis, a musician/singer, who performs traditional folk music; the musical marionette puppets of Julia Yerkov; and Cucaramacara, a five-person puppet theater group from Costa Rica, returning to the tent after a number of years.

While Konnerth does try to bring in performers from around the world, there is a wealth of local childrens' artists to choose from. Reappearing this year are such local favorites as Angela the Yarnspinner with Erik Peterson, Laini Kuumba Ngoma Dance Troupe Collective, and Adella, Adella the Storyteller. And your children won't have to passively observe every show -- many include audience participation. Plus, there's the hands-on tent that has activities with artists, and the Children's Cultural Village with many participatory activities.

Konnerth isn't just the program coordinator; for the past 20 years, she's been a one-woman troupe, Calliope Puppets. Reluctantly, she included herself in this year's festivities. "I don't book myself very often and I don't really like to capitalize, but I did this time since it's a new act," she says. "It's a multimedia theater piece called The Summer Queen, with Johnette Downing providing the music, and Rfuaw Diarra dancing. Basically, it's a creation myth of why there's summer and winter that we developed last December in Puerto Rico during a puppet festival."

Each day there will be at least six or seven hours of live performances in the tent along with the surrounding activities. So, rest assured that there's plenty for your kids to do at Jazz Fest -- how you explain to them when it's time to leave is up to you.

click to enlarge Calliope Puppets' The Summer Queen is - one of the new programs at the Jazz Fest's Kids' - Tent in 2003.
  • Calliope Puppets' The Summer Queen is one of the new programs at the Jazz Fest's Kids' Tent in 2003.
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