Art for (Summer) Art's sake: Annual festival brings thousands to River Campus

Monday, June 18, 2018 ~ Updated 10:41 PM
Sydney Mizicko performs aerial arts Saturday during the Summer Arts Festival at the River Campus.
Fred Lynch

Adults and children of all ages made their way to the River Campus on Saturday for the fifth annual Summer Arts Festival. It was a day celebrated with live music, performances, exhibitions and concessions.

One of the many free performances available in the Cultural Arts Center Atrium was the River City Players presenting bits from the upcoming summer comedy “White Lies,” set to debut July 12.

“White Lies” director Debbie Barnhouse has been involved with the River City Players since 1997 and said they have been part of the Summer Arts Festival for four years.

Barnhouse said River City Players perform three shows a year during April, July and November.

“It’s community,” she said. “Anybody that’s willing to drive and come to rehearsal. It’s all volunteer. And it’s a lot of hours involved. We love our volunteers.”

Actor Donna St. Sauver portrays Bea in the production and described the play as “very sassy,” with some adult content.

The play features four women, who once attended the same college but are now having a small reunion 20 years later, she said, along with “lots of drama.”

“So here we’re just doing small snippets, for the children,” she said. “We’re here in Cape. Our productions are always held at Port Cape. This is my first production with River City Players and I’m super excited.”

In the Cultural Arts Center Dance Studio, a free showing of The Edge’s “A Very Aerial Mixed Up Fairytale” was available, featuring a visually stunning performance by multiple child and adult actors from Southeast Missouri.

Adam Beard, 31, of Chaffee, Missouri — one of the aerial artists in the production — was portraying Cheshire Cat from “Alice in Wonderland” and said he has been involved with The Edge in Cape Girardeau for more than a year.

“It’s just basically a summer showcase showing off our students’ talents,” Beard said. “So we’re all students of The Edge or other art affiliates.”

Brenda Newbern, a Southeast Missouri native and executive director of Visit Cape, was relaxing in one of the many hammocks available outside. She said the festival is a good activity that brings in people from all over the area.

“It’s just a great thing. I’m just sitting here and listening to the steel drum band. Its such a wonderful asset for the community,” Newbern said. “I’ve already got my itinerary here set. When they’re finished, I’m going over to the grandstand tent.”

Newbern said the event is for everybody, “even if you don’t have kids to do all the other activities.”

“It’s good for adults, too. You get to sit, watch and enjoy,” she said.

Kevin Morgan and his two teenage daughters, Cherikee and Wendy, traveled from New Madrid, Missouri, and said it’s “obviously worth the drive.”

“We love this. We’re diggin’ the steel drum band. We came last year,” Kevin Morgan said.

Cape Girardeau native Patricia Silman and her granddaughter Hayes Needling of Anna, Illinois, attended Friday evening’s performance of “Legally Blonde Jr.” and decided to return for Saturday’s entertainment.

“It was very good,” Silman said. “And my other granddaughter, Jossilyn, is in the cast.”

Four-year-old Needling was busy munching on her snow cone but still had time to show off the painted snake on her arm from one of the activity tents.

“We fed the animals at the petting zoo and we went inside and saw the chalk art and the ceramics,” Silman said.

When asked what she liked most about the day, Needling said, “Everything.”

Rebecca Hurt, a Southeast Missouri State University graduate and theater major, was assisting with the River Campus shuttle golf-cart service offering free rides for patrons. Hurt was one of 105 volunteers at Saturday’s event.

“I think one of the really cool things is that they’re doing ‘Legally Blonde Jr.’ with this,” she said. “It lets kids see that they can do theater as well. It provides them an opportunity to see what it’s like.”

Hurt said the children involved with the production “get to see where we do the costumes” and also where sets are built, providing them with an introduction to the River Campus.

She said the Summer Arts Festival volunteers work 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in order to set everything up, including all the activity tents.

“And a lot of the volunteers are students,” she said. “So, we all switch off, because obviously it’s so hot. We don’t want anyone getting heat exhaustion.”

With so many volunteers involved with the festival, River Campus box office manager Ellen Farrow described it as “an outpouring of support” from athletics majors, theater majors, community members and patrons.

Farrow said she expected nearly 6,000 attendees during the one-day event.

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