Imagination Bethesda (scheduled for Sat., June 2, 2018) has been CANCELLED due to weather. Bethesda Urban Partnership looks forward to next year’s event and hopes for better weather in 2019.
Imagination Bethesda, a celebration of families, children and the arts, will take over the heart of downtown Bethesda June 2. Some 20 booths along Woodmont Avenue and Elm Street will offer hands-on activities for children, and popular children’s performers will be on stage at the free-admission Bethesda Urban Partnership event.
Among the craft activities children can choose from are making masks, pipe cleaner figures, small kites and handprinted tiles. They may decorate cookies, take pictures in a photo booth, learn about pedestrian safety and meet McGruff the Crime Dog.
“It’s a great way to kick off summer,” said Brenna O’Malley, Bethesda Urban Partnership’s marketing and communications manager.
The entertainment will be nonstop, starting with Zig Zag the Magic Man at 10 a.m. The grandsons, Jr. will give the final performance of the day at 2 p.m. The group won the Washington Area Music Association’s best children’s artist award the last three years the award was given.
The grandsons, Jr. are a spinoff of The Grandsons, a band that has been playing root rock music in the area for more than 30 years, according to Alan MacEwen, who sings and plays both guitar and trumpet. The band last played Imagination Bethesda in 2014. “I thought this was the best kids’ music festival I’ve experienced,” he said.
The grandsons, Jr. formed about eight years ago at a time when band members were thinking about their own families, he explained. The full-time musicians play about one-third of their shows as the juniors, two-thirds as The Grandsons. The grandsons, Jr. play a broad brush of country, jazz, rockabilly and Caribbean tunes, basically Americana, MacEwen said. They are known for their song “Stop the Dancing Up There” from their album “One Big Oroonie.”
“We try to avoid teaching life lessons or making it too didactic,” he said. What they do try to do instead is inspire children and communicate that music is joyful. Their shows are interactive, and they often go into the audience and invite children to sing and dance along.
“Kids see and hear a lot of these things for the first time [at a show],” he observed. “You get a chance to really impact a child’s formative musical experiences — that’s special.”
The festival offers area children’s theaters, schools and nonprofit organizations a chance to showcase their activities. Many will have arts and crafts activities geared for children 12 and under.
“The greatest part of the event is the number of people who come out to be creative, have fun and learn about what is available for their children in the community,” said Amanda Bradley, Adventure Theatre-MTC’s (ATMTC) director of communications. “But my favorite part is getting to meet actual ATMTC patrons who have fond memories with their children or grandchildren. Theater can be a lot of work, so it’s extremely rewarding to have families talk about what stood out for them in the performances they saw or the camps they attended.”
You will know which children visited the ATMTC booth by their fairy wings.
To promote its upcoming production of “Tinker Bell,” ATMTC is inviting children to make their own fairy wings. They will decorate cardboard wings and theater staff will help secure the wings with string, so the children can wear them.
“Adventure has always participated, as long as I have been at ATMTC, which is going on nine years,” Bradley said.
Anjali Varma opened Kidville in Bethesda in May 2010 and that June, joined the Imagination Bethesda festival that is held around the corner from Kidville, which offers creative classes for babies, toddlers and kids up to 5 years old. Kidville has been part of Imagination Bethesda every year since. “I love the event,” she said. “It’s always a good time for families. It’s in the heart of Bethesda and draws all ages.”
At the Kidville booth, children can get glitter tattoos and decorate door knockers. Varma loves seeing families she knows, meeting new families and seeing the other participating groups.
Imagination Bethesda usually draws about 15,000 people, according to O’Malley. Each activity is prepared for at least 1,000. Entertainment and activities are free. Vendors will sell food.
The children’s festival will be held rain or shine from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 2, but don’t worry about the weather. “We’ve always had good weather,” O’Malley said. And, just in case, every activity is under a tent.
Bethesda Urban Partnership will host the annual Imagination Bethesda from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 2, on Woodmont Avenue and Elm Street in Downtown Bethesda. Admission is free. For a complete list of activities and performances, visit www.bethesda.org/bethesda/imagination-bethesda.