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Calling all moppets

The Midnight Sun Moppets Children's Festival returns June 8.

By Amy Kenny

Rain or shine, there will be plenty to do at the Midnight Sun Moppets Children’s Festival on June 8.
There are indoor, outdoor and tented events scheduled for the annual arts festival, says Michele Emslie, director of programming at the Yukon Arts Centre, where the event takes place.
Some of those include musical performances.
“I’m so excited about my favourite carnival band, Tiny Islands Brass Band,” Emslie says. “They’ll be roaming around and acting as the Moppet soundtrack for the day.”
There will also be a puppet-making workshop led by Nakai Theatre, followed by a parade; the ever-popular construction of a cardboard castle; a tie-dye workshop (free shirts and socks will be provided); arts & crafts; and sunflower planting.
As always, Emslie says the event, which begins at 10 a.m. and runs to 4 p.m., is free for attendees, with the exception of a $5 cover for three indoor performances. 
One of these is Vancouver circus performer Mike Battie, who juggles, walks on stilts and more.

There will also be a puppet-making workshop led by Nakai Theatre, followed by a parade; the ever-popular construction of a cardboard castle; a tie-dye workshop; arts & crafts and sunflower planting.

The other is B.C. musician, Kym Gouchie, whose family tree includes Lheidli T’enneh, Secwepemc, Cree and European ancestry. Her new record, Shun beh nats’ujeh (We Are Healing Through Songs), is her first for kids, though she’s performed in schools for years.
It’s also her first album sung in languages including Cree, Lheidli T’enneh, and Dakelh.
“It was a different way of writing because I was learning my ancestral languages while I was writing,” Gouchie says over the phone from Prince George, B.C., where she lives.

“Language can be complicated when you’re learning it and I learned that firsthand,” she says. The record required more editing than previous records, Mountain of Youth, or Northern Shining Star Woman, because she returned to her lyrics again and again as she learned more from her mentors.
The learning was a huge part of why she wanted to write Shun beh nats’ujeh (which will be released June 13) for kids.
Back in 2021, Gouchie was thinking about how, as a musician, she’s in a position to share messages. At the same time, she was also thinking a lot about language preservation. Gouchie herself says she knew some words in Cree, and even fewer in Dakelh. She saw the record as a way to connect with and honour her ancestors, while bringing their language to a new generation—something Gouchie finds interesting when she thinks about her own childhood.

“As a kid, I was so quiet and shy you couldn’t get a word out of me,” she says. She thinks she came to a turning point when she became a mother—that helped her find her voice and start telling her stories through song.
She does that now in her own languages, teaching kids words like jenyo (Dakelh for bullmoose) with the aid of a moose puppet.
It’s just one of the ways she keeps the attention of young audiences.
“It did take a while for me to be able to learn how to engage with kids onstage for 45 minutes,” she says, laughing. “That’s a long time.”
In addition to an assist from her puppet, Gouchie relies on her clothing and earrings, her drumming and dancing, and her encouragement that kids get up and move to her music, as ways to keep them interested in her performances.
Because fun is important too, she says. She hopes audience members, young and old, walk away from her shows with a deeper understanding of the importance of language and preservation of stories—but she also aims to give audiences a good time.
“I want it to be fun and engaging and entertaining and enlightening and interactive,” she says.
More information on the schedule of events available here.

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