A little bit of everything arts-related will contribute to a lot of creative fun for children and their parents at the 22nd annual Imagination Bethesda on Saturday, June 4, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., on Woodmont Avenue and Elm Street in downtown Bethesda.
“Activity tents line the streets, face painters bring butterflies and pirates to life, a stage of live entertainment will have the whole street dancing,” promised Brenna O’Malley, marketing and communications manager for event sponsor Bethesda Urban Partnership’s (BUP). Some 10 to 20 community volunteers, she said, will help BUP and other participating organizations with the morning setup and other tasks throughout the day.
New groups this year for the expected 15,000 to 20,000 attendees, O’Malley said, include the Bethesda Library, Montgomery Parks and Wonders Early Learning + Extended Day, as well as several bands and performance groups like Rainbow Rock Band, Ryan Buckle and the Curiosity Crew, C-Unit Dance and Mr. Jon & Friends.
Adventure Theatre MTC (ATMTC) has been taking part in Imagination Bethesda “at least for the last 10 years,” said ATMTC’s Communication Director Amanda Bradley, who noted that vendors’ participation is free, “but they must provide an interesting craft for 1,000 kids to make.” “I do try to tie in the craft/activity to whatever professional shows or student shows we have coming up over the summer. So each year it’s a different activity for us, and that creates a fun challenge internally,” Bradley said.
“Our craziest year,” she recalled, “was when we did lollipops for ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,’ which was one of our summer camp shows. We took a large 4-inch foam disc, inserted a popsicle stick in the bottom and covered the entire disc in tissue paper, which gave the appearance of a lollipop.”
The popularity of the lollipop craft surprised her. “! I think we had 3 to 4 volunteers in the booth at a time trying to supervise a total of 12 children doing the activity, and I don’t think any of the volunteers sat down all day. I counted the spares we had left after the festival, and we completed 650 of them for kids that day,” she said. “But that’s 650 kids that know a little more about ATMTC than before, and that’s an entire weekend of patrons for me!
This year, the plan is to make jungle binoculars, the jungle theme in conjunction with “Jumanji,” ATMTC’s next show.
ATMTC, Bradley explained, “participates in local events regularly for exposure of all its programming, both for the Academy and the Theatre. Regardless of how much one tries to get your name out there, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get people’s attention if you’re a small organization. Events really help with that because you can give people lots of information while they’re at your booth and the information is much easier to digest in person rather than through an -mail. Additionally, you’ll get the parents who know Adventure Theatre MTC and talk about how valuable you are to their family, and as an organization that deals with a large number of people through your doors, those moments are always cherished.”
Rocknoceros—Coach, Williebob and Boogie Bennie—will make a return engagement to the festival for a 45-minute show starting at 2:15 p.m. that will feature “some of our newer, unreleased songs,” said Coach Cotton. The band has been together since 2005, about a month after Cotton took his then 1- and 3-year-old sons to see a live children’s show at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Va. “I left thinking that, with a couple of friends, we could conjure a compelling act and add something meaningful to the local kids’ music scene.”
The band’s name, said Boogie Bennie, “came from a good friend of ours. When he learned we were forming a kids group, he had several great suggestions, and ‘Rocknoceros’ was our favorite.”
The three band members-all in their mid-40s—write lyrics, and Williebob and Boogie write and arrange the music. “Williebob plays the stringed instruments for the band: guitar, banjo, mandolin, bass (in the studio). He sings most of our harmony parts, and sings lead on a handful of songs. Boogie plays drums with his feet and keyboard with his hands (he left hand plays bass parts in our live show) and he sings. Additionally, he’ll break out his accordion at our live shows on occasion,” said Cotton, who sings and play percussion.
Boogie Bennie said he loved music as a child, “especially The Beatles and Elvis. I want to get other kids to love music!” The band’s previous experience at Imagination Bethesda, he added, “was great. Wonderful weather, wonderful food, great crowd. I’m hoping this year is just as good.”
Brian Rosenthal, Music Director at Bach to Rock, also will offer music to inspire children, kicking off the festival with a 15-minute show at 10 a.m. At press time, he was unsure of the specific act, “but it will most likely be a solo singer/instrumentalist or DJ.” Bach to Rock also will have a table set up by the stage “where we will be demonstrating our Rock City classes with various instruments.” Also a repeat participant, Rosenthal identified the benefits: “We will be showcasing our talented students” and the goal: “to meet potential new students and show them how our unique curriculum makes learning music fun!”
For more information, visit www.bethesda.org.