Children and the Arts: ‘Let Your Light Shine’

  • The pirate-themed 2018 Children and the Arts Day Giant Puppet Parade. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • The pirate-themed 2018 Children and the Arts Day Giant Puppet Parade. Staff photo by Meghan Pierce

  • The pirate-themed 2018 Children and the Arts Day Giant Puppet Parade. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • The pirate-themed Children and the Arts Day Giant Puppet Parade was a big success. Staff photo by Meghan Pierce

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 5/15/2019 6:30:48 PM
Modified: 5/15/2019 6:30:38 PM

For more than two decades the third Saturday in May has meant one thing in Peterborough, the Children and the Arts Day Festival.

Saturday the festival – that celebrates children and the arts and includes a Giant Puppet Parade – is celebrating its 26th anniversary with the theme “Let Your Light Shine.”

“It does exemplify what we’re hoping kids get out of this, to let their light shine,” said Jeannie Connolly, one of the festival’s founders.

As the ConVal School District’s Arts Integration Coordinator, Connolly works to weave art into the classroom curriculum of all of the district’s eight elementary schools.

“It’s amazing how people used the theme to come up with artwork,” Connolly said of this year’s artwork already on display in downtown Peterborough. “The artwork that has been created, there is a lot of variety from lighthouses to fireflies to flashlights illuminating animals.”

The roots of the festival go back to a Claymation film made by students. In 1993, Connolly, Nancy Brown and Laura Hanson of Peterborough obtained a grant so Peterborough Elementary School students could make a Claymation film.

“We wrote a grant and in order to get the grant money we had to agree to show what was created by the kids in a public way and that is how Children and the Arts was created,” Connolly said.

What came together that first year was a screening of the film at the Peterborough Community Theatre, a Unitarian Church sponsored hands-on craft event for children, a New Hampshire Dance Institute program at the Peterborough Town House and the New England Marionettes performing Mozart’s “The Magic Fantasy” in its theater where the Mariposa is now located.

“It started so small. … So small, and it’s grown tremendously since then. I guess, I wouldn’t have predicted this based on what we were doing back in 1993,” she said.

Today almost all of downtown participates with an event or activity for children. All in the name of art, all for the children and all free.

“I love just looking at all the kids’ faces. They get so excited about everything,” Connolly said. “I always love the parade, of course, and I love seeing the kids. And when I say kids I mean kindergartners through 12th graders performing, being allowed to have a forum or venue to perform. I love that.”

The festival this year is actually starting Friday night with a free concert in the Peterborough Town House with Dan and Claudia Zanes. The musical duo is presenting a family-friendly, all-ages, free concert at 6 p.m.

Saturday morning will start with a pancake breakfast at the Unitarian Church from 8 to 10 a.m. And the Peterborough Elementary School Singers on the steps of the Town House at 9 a.m. Followed by the Well School Singers at 10 a.m.

The Great Brook Comedy Improv Team is performing at 10 a.m. in the Unitarian Church hall and the Jaffrey-based youth theater company Project Shakespeare is performing there at 11 a.m.

MAMA Youth Dance Company is to perform at the Town House at 10 a.m. And the Peterborough Dance Theatre Dance Company is taking the Town House stage at 1:15 p.m.

Also at the Town House will be ConVal’s a capella groups – the girls a capella group The Clef Hangers at 11 a.m., and the boy’s a capella group Morin Tune at 9:15 a.m.

Flying Gravity Circus of Wilton is performing at the Town House at 2:15 p.m.

The Giant Puppet Parade that has become the centerpiece of the festival since it was added in 1997 kicks off at noon. You don’t have to register to join the parade you just have to line up in the Peterborough Elementary School parking lot at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday. The parade makes its way down Main Street, turns onto Grove Street, ending at Putnam Park where the ConVal Drumline is performing from noon to 1 p.m.

You also don’t need a Giant Puppet to march, but it helps. Most who join the parade use the year’s theme for inspiration in creating puppets or costumes or both.

After the parade ConVal High School’s spring musical offering “Miscast Cabaret” is being performed at the Unitarian Church Hall at 1:30 p.m.

This will be followed by a troupe of teen actors performing the Shakespearean parody “Two Vampires of Verona: Let Your Twilight Shine” in the same space at 2:15 p.m.

Last year festival organizers celebrated the festival’s 25th year with a special wintertime lantern parade that was also themed, “Let Your Light Shine,” held Dec. 1 in conjunction with the Peterborough town Christmas tree lighting. The lantern parade was so successful a second one is planned this December with the theme “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

For a full schedule go online to


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