Happy Sigh! The Summer Arts and Music Festival Is Coming Soon

summer arts watercolor (1)Press release from the Mateel:

If you were lucky enough to grow up in Southern Humboldt within the last 40 years, there’s a good chance that the Summer Arts & Music Festival was one of your favorite summer outings….and still is! Back in the day, before the dam at Benbow Lake was removed to restore salmon and steelhead habitat, some of the highlights of Summer Arts included  being able to go for a swim in the lake, or take a spin in one of the little paddle boats. Local SoHum resident, Erica Boyd, who was vending the first few years of the festival, remembers staying at Benbow Lake campgrounds across the lake and rowing over to the festival in a canoe on sunny mornings, and back across under the stars at night. The free flow of the river is back for our fish now, but the fun of Summer Arts remains a huge draw, even without the lake, for kids and adults alike!

The sounds of music, children laughing, friends and neighbors catching up; the wonderful smells of savory foods cooking; the softness of the grass underfoot, colors and costumes, dancers and craftspeople welcoming with smiles,  all combine to make the special magic that is Summer Arts & Music Festival.

This June 4th and 5th, at Benbow Lake State Recreation Area, Summer Arts lovers from all over will be coming together to celebrate it’s 40th year! Now, “kids” who grew up with Summer Arts, their friends, and the parents who are now grandparents, all come again. Now the “new kids” are running around in the sunshine, eating too much ice cream, getting sticky, taking it all in and generally having a blast.

Here to help in that process is “The Kid Zone.”  Located at about midpoint down the fairway, The Kid Zone at Summer Arts is like a circus but better: the kids get to be part of the action!

Circus Nature and their Three Rings of Play who’ve been part of Summer Arts for twenty years, starts at 11am both days and invites kids, accompanied by an adult, to join in the fun under their Rainbow Star Circus Pavilion. There, hosts Denise and Bede embark with them on circus adventures in The Three Rings of Play. Ring 1 is Make Believe Theater that involves skits, puppets and “wizardly storytelling” accompanied, of course, by bubble magic and animal balloons. Ring 2 is the Circus Skills Extravaganza where kids can explore and show off their circus skills with hoops, balls, juggling pins, pogo sticks, stilts, jump ropes, hopscotch and more are provided. Ring 3 is Peaceful Pandemonium where kids can enjoy active play in a “kind and rowdy way”, with such activities as tug of peace, parachute chase, springboards and tumbling mat acrobatics.

Meanwhile there is the Arts & Crafts Activities Tent that runs from 10am- 6pm each day. Offering ongoing creative arts opportunities for kids and parents all weekend long.

No kid zone would be complete without a Bouncy House, and this one is offered free of charge all weekend in a supervised environment.

Visit Circus Emporium Odditorium, a museum of oddities, curiosities and other circus memorabilia dedicated to preserving the Americana folk art tradition of circus sideshow. A jakalope, P.T. Barnum’s original Fiji Mermaid, and other weird stuff…. you never know what you’ll see at the Odditorium!

Individual performers, Mickey The Clown and Captain Bubbles will be back. Mickey  with his bamboo kazoo, one of a kind voice, original songs and silly antics, makes an instant fans of everyone. Captain Bubbles will be bringing smiles and fun with his bubble magic and the singing Tibetan bowls in the Kid Zone.

The World Peace Clowns will be performing using skits, pranks and zany antics to sneakily bring environmental and political issues to the forefront. Founder of WPC, Brino Ism, has worked and traveled with the famed Dr. Patch Adams in the past, and since then has evolved WPC into a worldwide movement promoting peace and unity all over the globe.

Another reason kids love Summer Arts is because spontaneous parades tend to just randomly coalesce in a march around the festival at any times during the day! Stemming from the Kid Zone, a variety of theatrical and musical characters lead the way. Join in the fun! At 6pm parade enthusiasts will meet under the RainbowStar Circus Pavilion each day where you can to grab a prop and embark on the daily Celebration of Life Parade!

Though not technically in the Kid Zone area, the Round Calendar at the far south end of the festival will offer an opportunity for kids to paint rocks, make fabric sun disks, learn about the seasons, and led in song by the host, dance their way around the giant Round Calendar!

A variety of vendors offer activities, costumes, fun, and foods that kids like in the Kid Zone area as well.

Older kids will be drawn to performances on the Youth Stage. Ty and Hawk, are a young Native American comedy duo who use comedic skills and role play to delight audiences. Multi-talented, they perform funny original songs, sometimes use puppets in their act, and have their own YouTube comedy channel. This marks their first music festival debut, joined by special guests.

Mateel’s youth orchestra, SPARC, multi-generational orchestra blending students and experienced musicians, creats a poly-rhythmic ensemble including Bryce Gray’s marimbas, plus bass, soprano to tenor recorders, and voice.

A clown group kids of all ages don’t want to miss on the Youth Stage is ClownSnotBombs, a non-profit physical comedy performance company group out of Berkley. Composed of multi-talented artists, circus performers, and musicians they will captivate you with their humorous play and performance. They’ve appeared on the show Fake Off on Tru TV and have recently released their first album, Goldtooth.

Step right up to see the most dangerous and breathtaking acts of  the Circus Emporium Roadshow, an authentic 10-in-1 sideshow experience, straight from Coney Island. You may see the human blockhead, the pain-proof girl, the elastic man, and a parade of human anomalies. Seeing is believing they portend you will never see anything like this as long as you shall live!

Come and be a kid again! Advance tickets for the weekend pass offer a discount and are available online only at mateel.org.  Admission at the gate is $25 per day or $40 for the weekend pass. As always, kids 12 and under free.

Gates open at 9:30am and entertainment runs from 10am to 10pm both days. A free public shuttle is offered continuously from Redway, Garberville, Benbow, and Richardson Grove State Park. Program guides are on the streets now or check out the Summer Arts pages of www.mateel.org for stage schedules, a digital version of the festival program guide, and more info on all the that’s in store at this special 40th anniversary celebration of the Summer Arts & Music Festival on June 4th and 5th.

Last Call for Volunteers at Summer Arts & Music FestivalVolunteers are needed for the 40th Annual Summer Arts and Music Festival. Come be part of a local tradition. This event is fun and family friendly. It could not happen with the support of our wonderful volunteers. Each volunteer gets free admission, meals during their shift, drinks, a tee shirt and camping. If you are interested, please fill out our online volunteer application on our website mateel.org. If you have any questions, please contact Tanya at 707-923-3368 or email volunteers@mateel.org.



  • thank you kids that started it! this kid who swam in the lake in 96 when i moved looks forward to hanging in the outstanding kids zone (for specifically younger kids:) this year with my kid! sans lake!

  • I remember the lake! It was a tremendous tourist draw that supported the community. There’s nothing like a lush lake to swim in after hiking through the groves in the heat of the summer. It’s too bad they can’t create a better, more technology advanced type of dam that would bridge the divide between wrong ways & right ways to help both wildlife & those who enjoy wildlife.

  • If not for the narrow and dangerous road to Sproul Creek the Community park has the potential to be a much better venue because of the flat and square shape of the parcel.
    Much more room for stages and picnic areas.
    Natural shade might be a little short thou.

  • Saw The “Prince of Polyester” David Lindley and Hannie Nasser play there in the early 90’s,,,I think. Kind of hazy, but I remember the show. It was great. They were still doing the lake back then.

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