Madagascar Slim is one of the many performers you'll see on the beach during the Harrison Festival of the Arts.

Harrison Festival kicks off tonight

World music showcased in Harrison Memorial Hall

It all starts tonight.

Every summer, the beach comes alive with music, theatre, and an explosion of colourful offerings of art and whimsy, thanks to the long-running Harrison Festival of the Arts.

Earlier this week, Memorial Hall was being rigged up with risers to seat the hundreds of people that will fill them each night of the festival.

“We’re setting up the risers and focusing the lights,” Ed Stenson, festival general manager said Monday. “We’ve been in here since yesterday, getting the indoor stuff all done so we can start outside on Thursday.”

Ticket sales have been strong and steady, and while there were no sell outs early this week, that may not be the case today.

“Next Sunday night’s James Cotton show is selling strong,” he said. Cotton is one of the more notorious musicians on the bill this year, as a Grammy-award winning harmonica player. He spent 12 years playing with Muddy Waters, and is in the Blues Hall of Fame.

But he’s not the only reason to come to the festival. As always, each night promises to transport audiences around the world.

Tonight, the flavour is Cajun, as Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys hit the Memorial stage. Then we’ll see Tambura Rasa’s five-piece act that includes fiery Spanish guitar, a fully orchestrated Baladi gypsy string section and burning Afro-Latin percussion.

Hans Theesink and Terry Evans play this Sunday, and he’ll bring the blues from Europe across the pond. Monday will mean a break from music as the focus turns to all things love, with the Literary Cafe.

Tuesday night will feature two plays chosen from the UFV Directors’ Festival, The Art of Self-Defense and The Dagger’s Before Me.

Then on Wednesday, July 13, it’s back to the beats, with the Celtic group Beoga.

Etran Finatawa has made a name for themselves around the world, from their homeland of Niger. The Harrison Festival Society named this group as one to watch for earlier this year when they released this year’s line-up of performers.

Friday, July 15, Ti-Coca and Wanga Neges takes the stage, followed by Hapa on Saturday, July 16. The festival closes with James Cotton on July 17.

But there’s more to the festival than the fantastic nightly shows. Live music is lined up for the beach, with performances throughout the weekend , and at 7 p.m. on weeknights. The art market on the beach runs each weekend, starting at 11 a.m. and running until 7 p.m. on Saturdays and 5 p.m. on Sundays. The market will also be open next Friday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For the kids, and the little kid in all of us, there is also Children’s Day, a mass celebration of arts and culture geared to little ones, on July 13 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Other events include sunrise meditation on the beach (July 10 and 17, 7:15 a.m.) and yoga on the beach (July 9 at 8 a.m.)

There will be a crystal spirit sound healing workshop, a drum making workshop, and a special Aboriginal Collaboration (July 16), which features performers such as Leela Gilday, Diga, Cris Derksen, Kinnie Starr, Diyet and Sylvia Cloutier.

Special this year is an art show planned in conjunction with the festival, at Ranger Station Art Gallery. The Beating Heart: Spirit of Sts’ailes includes drums, cedar bark and cedar root weavings, hand spun wool works, prints, original works and clothing designs.

To find Ranger Station, walk to the east end of the beach and follow the ‘art gallery’ signs, or drive to 98 Rockwell Drive.

For a full list of all festival information, including ticket prices and showtimes, visit www.harrisonfestival.com.

news@ahobserver.com