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Choochokam pays tribute, adds fun
BY Record staff
Choochokam, Langley’s annual festival of the arts, takes over the town this weekend with dozens of booths filled with artists’ creations and plenty of music to keep the town hopping both Saturday and Sunday.
Almost 38 years ago, artist John Braun and friends got together to cook up a plan to celebrate Langley’s rich arts community. They wanted it to be fun, complete with a street dance and art show. The group did more than that, they started an event named Choochokam, very loosely translated from the Hopi: A Gathering of Stars. And here, 37 years later, the group’s legacy lives on.
Friends of John Braun are hosting an art show and sale to honor his work. The opening party is scheduled from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 6 in Studio 106, located at 106 McLeod Alley in Langley. Visitors to the studio will find Braun’s Northwest Coastal art, Talisman and jewelry, as well as his mother Mary McNeal’s quilts and ceramics. The show will benefit the Island Arts Council Artist in Residence program.
Swamp Mama tribute
Over the years, bands and artists alike, have become what event organizers call “family.” It is a mutual love for community that creates long-lasting relationships.
“Choochokam is a destination event,” event co-chair Sherry Jennings said. “It’s not the mainland shows where people simply drive up, set up and sell, or play. Musicians and artists plan this show as a bonafide trip. And many artists make this their special show of the year because, not only is Langley a beautiful place to sell or play, it’s also a place where artists do well and musicians are widely received.”
Swamp Mama Johnson, a long-time music favorite at Choochokam, was one of these family members. “People who like Choochokam ‘the way it was’ usually refer to Swamp Mama,” Jennings said.
In April, lead singer Lisa Mills was killed in a tragic motorcycle accident. The collective community mourned her loss, while her remaining band members formed Cascadia 10. Jennings said the band contacted Choochokam early on to play the street dance as a tribute to Mills. Cascadia 10 will be opening this year’s event at 6 p.m. Saturday with its Northwest Afro-Beats.
The New Iberian Blues & Zydeco band will headline the Street Dance beginning at 8 p.m.
Sunday’s Street Dance has become just as popular as the Saturday night event. Local band Slower Loris will close the 2012 show. Last year, they filled the Useless Bay Coffee Co. garden to capacity.
Gwen Jones and Celia Black, entertainment coordinators, said they had almost 20 musicians and bands on a waiting list by May 1 this year.
Main Stage will open with local jazz and “Bahia.” Ruzivo, Dana Moffet’s marimba band will follow and then the day unfolds with Americana, pop, country and reggae. The Useless Bay Pavilion will see bands like “Boys with Toys,” an indie rock band complete with an 8-year-old bassist, and other favorites such as “The McG’s” and “The Fatons.”
“We are getting our name out there as a serious place to play,” Jones said. “This is a great venue and we have seen the likes of LeRoy Bell and Vicci Martinez on our stage in past years.”
Main Stage and the Useless Bay Coffee Pavilion will have continuous music, while the new Langley Park Stage will have booked music from 11:45 to 2:45. From 2:45 to 4:45 each day, there will be open mic space available to anyone wishing to play acoustic music, sing, read poetry or do anything else appropriate for the stage. Sign up sheets will be available each day.
And nothing could be more fun than to have local “celebrities” as part of the Choochokam demonstration area.
Art demo booths
“Whidbey Island Fine Art Studio owner Cary Jurriaans has assembled quite the group of artists and models for the Langley Artists Connect/WIFAS demo booths located in the US Bank parking lot at the corner of Second Street and Anthes Avenue,” Jennings said.
New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth George, actress and writer Patricia Duff, writer Sue Frause and husband Bob, Inn at Langley owners Paul and Pam Schell and bar manager Chris Adams all plan to sit for portrait paintings throughout the weekend. A few of the artists include David Gray, Tenaya Sims, Ned Mueller, Aaron Coerley, Faye Castle, Henry Stinson, Jim Lamb, Gordy Edberg, Truman Castle, Liana Bennett and others.
The Whidbey Island Woodworking Guild members and sculptor Simon Kogan will also be included in the demo area.
Kids’ Zone activities
Rose Woods, artistic director at Whidbey Children’s Theater, is heading up the fun activities in Choochokam’s Kid Zone area, located in the Porter Building parking lot at the corner of Anthes Avenue and Third Street.
WCT is planning arts and crafts activities, chalk art, face painting and the famous bubble man. There will be impromptu STOMP fun, as well as drumming circles.
Each year WCT plans matinee performances during the festival. This year’s performance is “Snow White,” with two 2 p.m. matinees scheduled during the weekend.