Clowning abounds at Summerfest

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— The sounds of African drums and the smells of grilling hamburgers filled the air Saturday at the Hayden Summerfest, setting the perfect mood for a barrage of entertainers that kept crowds awed.

The fourth annual Summerfest drew crowds from across the Yampa Valley to listen to music, sample food and be entertained by an array of jugglers, dancers and martial arts performers. Summerfest was from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday at Hayden Town Park

"Summerfest started because we wanted to bring some culture and entertainment to our beautiful park," said Lindsay Heer, Hayden recreation coordinator.

Heer estimated that more than 200 people would attend the event.

"An event like this brings the community together from all over through music and entertainment," she said.

Several new additions to the festivities this year helped draw crowds in and keep the children entertained longer: a rock-climbing wall and an inflatable obstacle course that children could climb up, over and around and then slide down.

One of the more colorful additions to this year's event was the presence of Stretch the 9-foot Clown. Stretch walked around the park with a 16-foot puppet strapped to his back and taught a stilt-walking clinic for the more adventuresome Summerfest attendees. Stretch helped people onto a pair of stilts and watched as they tried to get their balance and take a few courageous steps.

"The key is to squeeze your elbows together, and your hands have to be connected to the movement of your feet," said Harry Naused, a first-time stilt walker.

Stretch, or Bill Coleman from Denver as he is also known, was glad to be a part of Hayden's celebration.

"This is sweet," he said. "It's a really nice day."

Stretch was a magnet at the event, and children flocked to him like he was a celebrity. The children gazed in wonder at the towering puppet that gently extended a giant red hand to their faces. Some children got scared, but most were happy to give the puppet some love.

"My favorite thing is giving high fives," he said.

Another amusing aspect of the event was the eclectic juggling of the troupe We're Not Clowns from Steamboat Springs. At times, the troika seemed like they were having more fun making the crowd laugh than the audience was while watching them try to cut apples in half and juggle swords.

Member Andy Pratt followed an Afro Dance troupe with a little drumming of his own, and he set the stage for his fellow performers by pounding on a blue Maxwell House coffee can to keep the tempo.

Juggler Scott Parker said that though they have performed at Summerfest all four years, their show is never the same.

"It gets better every year, and every time you come to a show, it's just a little bit different," he said.

The jugglers' big finale was singing "Happy Birthday" to the United States of America while they juggled flaming cones.

Mayor Chuck Grobe had been out at Summerfest all day and was glad to see so many people browsing at the vendors' booths and supporting the entertainers.

"It's a good time for the community to come out and talk to everybody," he said.

Steamboat Springs resident Shelly Bourgeois was happy to make the trip to Hayden to see what Summerfest was all about.

"I've loved it so far, and the music has been wonderful," she said.

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