For Fall Arts Festival's Lizi Cruz, the Kids Are Alright

Board member talks puppets, the Blue Fairy and much more of the children's programming at this weekend's Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival in Old Mill Park.

For  first-timers with kids, the Children's Grove is an oasis that inevitably buys them a bit more time to soak in the art in Old Mill Park.

The Children's Grove slate of entertainment has been a major draw for Mill Valley families for decades, and features acts ranging from professional storytellers to puppeteers. This year's festival, set for Saturday Sept. 15 and Sunday Sept. 16 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., is no different.

Lizi Cruz, who inherited the role of arranging the children's entertainment from well-known Mill Valley puppeteer Lettie Schubert, is always on the lookout for exciting new acts. Her 11-year-old daughter has a pretty sharp talent radar as well, and often helps Cruz discover new potential acts at local fairs and events.

"Lettie was the person who started it all, she was involved with puppetry and the industry for decades," Cruz says. "She had a flare for it and was able to bring brilliant performers to the festival who we otherwise might not have been able to afford with a non-profit budget. They have stayed because they love the festival, it's such a wonderful space. I do think her spirit, not religiously, but just in the feeling of the festival, lives on."

For Cruz, the festival is really about the community, performance and magic and the Children's Grove entertainment is representative of what the festival is all about, she says.

"Children come with their families and then they grow up and bring their own kids," said Cruz.

Some performance highlights on Saturday include the Fratello Marionettes at 12:30 p.m., master storyteller Georgia Churchill at 1:45 p.m. and songs and dance from the Kids from Marin Performing Arts Academy at 3:40 p.m. to name a few. Both days will include magic shows, and Sunday's festivities will be emceed by The Blue Fairy, which, according to Cruz, is kind of a big deal.

"One of the highlights of the festival is seeing the children's faces light up when they see The Blue Fairy - she comes every year," Cruz says.

When asked which performances receive the best response, Cruz replied that finding a balance between different performance styles is key to ensuring that the kids have a great time.

"I think it's kind of an ebb and flow thing - we like to bring in the magic and puppets, which are always wonderful things the children love," Cruz says. "Kids like to get involved and hear Georgia's stories, everyone that hears her understands that she's incredible. I'm sorry George Lucas, but it's better than any Star Wars movie."

The 411: The is set for Sept. 15-16, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Go to the festival's website for more info.


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