VERO BEACH — It was a great time for pirates, jugglers, magicians and even dragons as young and old were treated to a day of free entertainment Saturday at the Riverside Children’s Theatre.
The event, sponsored by the McCabe Foundation with the stipulation that it be free for all, featured two one-act plays by the husband and wife team of Don Gruel and Noel Holland, the Singing Pirate George Aldrich, juggling by Jeff Lovett (along with a lesson for the kids) and face painting and balloon animals and even a bounce house.
Children’s theater education director Linda Downey put the crowd at the 11th Spring Fiesta at about 385, which is down from year’s past.
“We try to pick shows to introduce the kids to the theater arts and see that side of performing and that it is something they can do for themselves,” she said.
And there was plenty of audience participation as the littlest patrons were plucked from the audience to make their on-stage debuts as the Knight’s aide in the ACO production of “The Reluctant Dragon” or as part of Casey’s cheerleaders in “Casey at the Bat.”
The plays were adapted by ACO’s Gruel with the goal of entertaining and teaching and perhaps inspiring kids to get involved with the arts.
“We of course want to entertain,” said Gruel, “but we want to get the kids to think for themselves. For instance Casey turns out to be not the person you think he might be and the lesson is to be careful about who you pick to be your heroes.”
Gruel and his wife, who are based in Orlando, put on about 200 performances a year throughout the Southeast and were making their second appearance at the Spring Fiesta.
Some of the children were already old hands at being on stage. Sarah Ward, 5 1-2 has been attending Riverside Children’s Theatre classes for two years now.
“She has always liked play-acting and has such a vivid imagination, she has always loved to pretend,” said Sarah’s mother, Sheila.
For Downey the event is a perfect way to launch the summer season and bring attention to the theater’s summer camps.
“It is a great event and it is free so it just seems like a great way to get the children and their parents out and show what we have to offer,” she said.
The Children’s Theatre will feature seven camps for children ages 4 to teenagers. Camps and workshops include Beginning Stages, Video Camp, Rascals REVOLT, Dance Camp, Ballet Boot Camp, Weekly Dance Classes and a Summer Theatre Conservatory.
For more information about the camps call (772) 234-8052.