In 2007, street theater festivals were enjoying a surge in popularity across Europe, Asia, Canada and the South Pacific, but were not yet on the public’s radar screen in the U.S.
That was the year Woody Keppel of Charlotte approached Doreen Kraft, executive director of Burlington City Arts, with his idea for a Festival of Fools, his template for a performing art festival that would be played out in the streets of downtown Burlington.
Kraft embraced the idea and today the Festival of Fools is known internationally as one of the top-five busking festivals, evidenced by the enthusiastic crowds who come to witness extraordinary acts from around the world. This year’s festival is Aug. 4 through Aug. 6 in Burlington.
As the Festival of Fools celebrates its tenth anniversary, downtown Burlington will again provide an ideal landscape for three days of music and foolery for all ages. Over the past decade, the Queen City has been the meeting place for some of the world’s most eccentric performers whose collective resumes include Broadway, Vegas, Lincoln Center, the White House, Cirque du Soleil, Ringling Bros., Big Apple Circus, Monte Carlo and the gamut of late night TV, from Carson to Colbert. Over 140 performances will be presented throughout the weekend.
This year’s lineup includes acts from all over the world, including Bindlestiff Family Cirkus; Pinky Special and Rob Torres; Canadians John Park, Mike Wood, The Kif-Kif Sisters, and The Matt Velvet & Charlie Show; Strong Woman Mama Lou; Brushy One-String; Nigel Blackstorm; and local favorites from Charlotte, The Hokum Bros.
The festival kicks off with a parade down Church Street on Friday at 5:30 p.m. with the cast of Fools, led by Mayor Miro Weinberger. The parade will culminate with performances on Main Street followed by Late Night Foolery with The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus at Metronome at 9 and 11 p.m.
Saturday’s schedule features performances from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. in City Hall Park and on Church Street Marketplace. The John Waters classic “Hairspray” will be shown on a big screen at the top of Church Street at nightfall.
Sunday highlights include performances on Church Street from noon to 5 p.m.
Adults and kids of all ages who want to recharge their creative clown spirit are invited to take part in Mr. Woodhead’s School of Foolery, a free clowning, circus and street-performing workshop held on Friday and Sunday. The weekend concludes with The Last Laugh, highlighting the best of the fest all on one stage in City Hall Park at 5:30 p.m.