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Festival eerie only for its fun

Sun., Nov. 1, 2009

Singers, players, dancers, storytellers create comfortable folkore environment at SCC

Halloween mixed easily with the Fall Folk Festival Saturday at Spokane Community College.

Tastefully dressed creatures of the night – no gore in this crowd – tapped their toes and moved their monster mitts to the music as they wandered among impromptu jam sessions.

Wherever there wasn’t a folk art booth, there was a group of singers accompanying themselves with guitars, fiddles, banjos and mandolins. And those were just the pickup groups that didn’t have a stage.

Out in the lobby, Bonnie Bliss and Stan Hall – members of a band called Heartbreak Pass – were joined by friends Donnie Oberg, Iris Byrne and Paul Dickerson in some old-time favorites.

Pretty soon, a woman who declined to give her name – “too many people know me” – began dancing energetically by herself. Then a man in a blue “Jesus” ballcap joined her.

If you count old-fashioned dresses and battered hats, just about everyone young and old had a costume.

Some mixed their genres.

A woman who identified herself as Janet O. wore a gossamer witch hat while accompanied by June S. as a 3-year-old in jammies. June carried a homemade bunny named Sally.

Linda Witty wore an earthy costume she’d been told made her look like someone in a Harry Potter movie. She was with her sister, Lorraine White, in a yellow, ribbon-bow hat worthy of “Gone with the Wind,” and Samuel Crump in a Harpo Marx wig.

And then there was the Bat Family. Bob and LeAnn Cooley and their children, 6-year-old Lydia and 4-year-old Joseph, all looked like they’d just emerged from the Bat Cave. But Uncle Dick Sorenson came as a clown.

Sorenson brought a spare red nose that did nothing for Bob Cooley’s bat suit.

LeAnn Cooley and Sorenson were two-thirds of the Monster Mash Band that played “fun and silly songs” for children. Guitar players, they were joined by a children’s rhythm section and Dave McCray on upright bass.

McCray resembled a cross between Herman Munster and Jerry Lee Lewis as the band delivered such crowd pleasers as “The Unicorn Song” and a version of “This Little Light of Mine” that was so zippy Sorenson needed cellophane tape to hold his nose in place.

With the ear-to-ear tape, Sorenson might have been taken for an invalid on oxygen until he ended the “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” with a roar that startled the roomful of toddlers and preschoolers bouncing on parents’ knees.

“There’s a monster in the closet, the ghosts are on the wall,” they sang in tribute to the holiday. “So why do you keep on telling me there’s nothing there at all?”

Storytelling by Spokane children’s author Kenn Nesbitt was another seasonally appropriate hit with the younger ghouls. He let them use their fingers to choose random passages from a book of his poetry, titled “My Hippo Has the Hiccups.”

No mother could object to “My Robot’s Misbehaving,” a poem about a robot that wouldn’t do chores.

“I’ll have to get another,” Nesbitt read. “Until that day, I have to say, I’m glad I have my mother.”

Then a girl’s index finger parted the book to “Willie’s Wart.”

“Not that one,” Nesbitt protested. “It’s really, really gross.”

Yes, that one, the audience insisted.

It seems Willie had a very stubborn wart on his middle toe. The doctor tried everything to get rid of it. “He whacked it with a hammer, he yanked it with a wrench.”

He even “seared it with a welding torch despite the nasty stench.”

Nesbitt seemed to score best with some passages from a new middle-grades reader he’s writing, tentatively titled “Recipes for Disaster: How to Take Over the World in 10 Easy Steps.”

“Build evil robots,” “stop time for fun and profit” and “perfect your diabolic laugh,” the book’s narrator advises.

Eventually, the narrator admits he’s too lazy to take over the world himself. Yes, he concedes, he has a big butt.

The rapt audience erupted in giggles.

When Nesbitt’s session ended, 6-year-old Kayla Depner exclaimed that she wanted to come back today when he does another session at 3 p.m.

“Super funny,” the budding critic pronounced.

“Super fun,” 9-year-old Greta Grim agreed.

“I thought the big butt was so funny,” said sister Liesl Grim, 8.

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