SummerFest will highlight arts, from poetry to singing to dancing

Andrew Wright took a class field trip to see "Phantom of the Opera" when he was a kid in New York City. He went strictly to get out of school for a day, but it turned into much more than that.

"I was amazed, blown away," he recalls. "I knew I wanted to do that with the rest of my life."

And he did. Wright worked as a theater performer for years before moving behind the curtain as a director and choreographer. That field trip all those years ago is just part of the reason his company RagTag Entertainment is partnering with SummerFest, an arts festival taking place Friday and Saturday in Henderson. Wright wants to give today’s kids the same exposure to the arts that he had.

With teacher layoffs and budget cuts, Wright says, kids in Las Vegas and Henderson simply don’t have the kind of access to the arts that schools once made a priority.

SummerFest isn’t a way of fixing it completely, "but it’s a step in the right direction," he says.

Wright urges families to bring their kids to the free event that highlights all aspects of the arts, which is why it’s also being called "All Arts All the Time."

The work of Las Vegas artists will be exhibited throughout, including displays made from recycled goods.

Live action painting will also be in the works, so kids can see firsthand how a project progresses from beginning to end. Producers for SummerFest also checked out First Friday, the monthly downtown arts festival, to invite obscure artists to showcase their work.

"You go to other festivals and you see little bits of art, but never a celebration of all art forms," says Wright. "We wanted to make the art very accessible."

Case in point, Niles Rivers. The performer who played Simba from "Disney’s The Lion King" stayed in town when the show left Las Vegas. The singer and guitar player will perform a variety of jazz, blues and all genres in between at SummerFest. He’ll be on a stage that allows easy interaction with guests, so he can answer questions.

For a little flair, local dance crew Ground Zero will entertain the crowd with some hip-hop moves.

Wright expects this part of the festival to be an instant hit with kids, because the dance form has risen to popularity through reality dance competition TV shows.

The cast from the show "Edges," which rehearsed in Las Vegas but will premiere in Los Angeles, will also belt out a few songs. Even slam poets will perform for the crowd.

Whether you think you’re into the arts or not, Wright guarantees you’ll be thoroughly entertained: "There really is something for everyone."

Contact fashion reporter Xazmin Garza at or 702-383-0477.

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