Inaugural Centennial Hills Children’s Art Festival to feature diversity of offerings

Expect a lot more than finger painting at the Centennial Hills Children’s Arts Festival this weekend.

The inaugural event — set to include a photography contest, art classes, cardboard box sculptures and plenty of other kid-friendly creative staples — will shoot for a more all-inclusive approach to encouraging kids’ creativity, according to event organizer Brian Kendall.

Kendall, a cultural programming specialist with the city of Las Vegas, hopes to debut four interactive zones — dance, music, theater and visual arts demonstration — to help indulge kids’ appetite for every kind of art, especially the unfamiliar.

That’s where the Mexican heritage dance group Ballet Folklorico Xyachimal and the Nani Ola Hawaiian Dance Company come in.

Kendall said demonstrations from those groups, paired with performances from the Las Vegas Kaminari Taiko Drummers and the Las Vegas Lohan School of Shaolin, help highlight a sometimes-underexposed layer of cultural diversity in Las Vegas’ arts scene.

“We’re just making it a little easier to recognize these forms of art,” he said. “There’s something for everyone. For example, we’ve got both a traditional and a musical petting zoo, where kids can walk by and play instruments they’ve never played before.”

Scheduled appearances from award-winning musicians Aaron Nigel Smith, Alex & the Kaleidoscope Band and 2011 Grammy Award nominee Justin Roberts look to add some marquee appeal for kids with a musical ear, while theater and dance troupes from the Nevada School of the Arts and Broadway in the Hood are set to appeal to those more interested in the performing arts.

“We tried to make it really diverse,” Kendall explained. “We always hear that there’s not enough for kids and families to do in Las Vegas, so we’re trying to expose them to as many forms of art as possible.”

The man charged with overseeing it all — Clark County firefighter Anthony Johns, better known as DJ Tony — might be the most familiar face even among the Grammy-nominated headliners at the inaugural festival.

Jones is a 28-year veteran of city-sponsored events, including plenty of kid-friendly family festivals.

If Johns hasn’t already seen many of the faces in this weekend’s crowd at a Las Vegas-Clark County Library District event or the annual Vegas Valley Book Festival, it seems likely he’ll find at least a handful at one of more than 100 bar mitzvahs, birthdays and weddings he’s booked to attend this year.

“There’s never a tough crowd with kids,” Johns said. “Kids aren’t too cool to be entertained.

“If the whole crowd’s not smiling, I’m not doing my job. I’m like a Pixar movie: I’m animated, but I’ve got something for everybody, kids and adults.”

The West Las Vegas Arts Center Drum Ensemble, fresh off a recent appearance at the House of Blues, counts as another local favorite headed for the Centennial Hills Park amphitheater June 1.

Ensemble coordinator Marcia Robinson said that unlike many festival performers, some members of her African-inspired drum and dance group will be playing to an audience that could include classmates.

“It is very kid-friendly,” Robinson said of the group. “Last time out we had about 15 drummers and 10 dancers, all between the ages of 10 and 20.

“Power: that’s how I would describe the (drum) sound. We teach our young people to believe in themselves, to understand African drums as part of their culture.”

The Centennial Hills Arts Festival is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 1 at Centennial Hills Park, 7101 N. Buffalo Drive. Admission is free.

Mobile food vendors, face painters, balloon artists, circus clowns, jump houses and a city of Las Vegas fire truck are set to be on hand for those looking to take a break from the arts.

For more information on the festival, contact the city of Las Vegas Office of Cultural Affairs at 702-229-6383 or visit www.artslasvegas.org.

Contact Centennial and North Las Vegas View reporter James DeHaven at jdehaven@viewnews.com or 702-477-3839.

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