Puppets Up! mascot Nick and friends embrace James Naismith.

by Edith Cody-Rice

After a hiatus of 6 years, townsfolk have decided that Puppets Up! made such a wonderful contribution to this town that  it will be revived in August of 2022.

Puppets Up! is the popular family festival which enthralled adults and children  for 12 summers starting in 2005. In 2003, a dynamic local Chamber of Commerce executive was looking for an event to highlight the cultural history of Almonte, the charm of Mill Street and the artistic abilities of our young people. Local resident Mary Lou Souter approached Noreen Young (accomplished puppeteer and order of Canada recipient) and her partner Bruce Kingsley with the idea of a puppet festival.  Bruce suggested the concept of a medieval fair along Mill Street with puppet performances in tents and free entertainment on the street . So began the planning for the first festival. Mary Lou gathered 50 organizing volunteers and by 2005, 200 volunteers made it happen. No one, including artistic director Noreen was paid to organize and realize the festival. Only visiting troupes received compensation.

The festival was a huge success, packing Mill Street and the performances for a weekend every summer.

Volunteers painted stage curtains on store windows on Mill Street to create a magical atmosphere.

The festival attracted about 3,000 ticket holders and a further 3,000 people who attended the free street performances. The total audience was between 7,000 and 8,000 people per weekend. Puppets Up!  attracted visitors from far and wide and solidified our reputation as the friendly town. Some people even moved to the area as a result of visiting the festival.

But in 2016, realizing that funds, including grants and ticket sales would not be enough to keep the festival out of debt, the board decided it could not proceed.

Fast forward to 2021, Jane Torrance, Almonte resident and active community organizer, asked Noreen about reviving the festival. Jane enlisted Kris Riendeau, publisher of the Humm, and ads were placed in the Millstone and the Humm asking for volunteers who would be interested in bringing the festival back. Seventy-two people responded so the festival will go forward in 2022 with Jane as festival director and Kris as volunteer recruiter. There are now 12 committees planning the new Puppets Up!.

As artistic director, Noreen has attracted 10 troupes from Ontario, Quebec, the United States, Indonesia and Iceland for the festival which will take place August 12-14, 2022. The Puppets Up! website launches tomorrow, October 1.

But help is needed so if you can be a volunteer, donor or sponsor, please go to the Puppets Up website to donate or offer your services. There is a whole new generation out there that has yet to discover the magic of Puppets Up!. The website can be reached at www.puppetsup.com