Arts Alive, which took over the one-way section Fraser Highway in downtown Langley on Saturday, had star power.
Wes Barker has moved towards celebrity status after his televised audition for America’s Got Talent, and appearance on Comedy Network and Penn & Teller: Fool Us over the past few months.
But the former Langley resident has never forgotten where he came from, which is why, once again, he performed his comical brand of street magic at Langley’s annual arts and culture festival.
This time around, he swallowed a long balloon in just a few gulps and kept the audience guessing with sly card tricks.
“They make it fun,” Barker said, on why he returns to Arts Alive in the midst of what he describes as a “crazy year.”
“There’s always good crowds and everybody’s here to have a good time, so it’s like the perfect environment,” he said, adding, “especially when it’s the community where I’m from.”
“It definitely keeps you sharp,” Barker said, of using the street as his stage and having passersby as his audience. “You end up coming up with really good stuff when you work the streets so I love coming here.”
And how is he going to digest that balloon?
“Oh, a couple beers…” he said with a laugh.
Arts Alive organizer Teri James said it was an honour to have Barker back at the festival.
“He started coming here in 2009 when nobody knew who he was and he feels like we gave him an opportunity,” she said. “Now his profile has increased dramatically. He loves Arts Alive and he keeps coming back and gracing us with his presence every year.”
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Arts Alive celebrated its 22nd year under cloudy skies and comfortable weather and 240 vendors and artists (up by about 20 from last year) showed their wares along Fraser Highway from 204th to 206th Street as well as different lanes and alleyways connected to the street.
If you include the visual and performing artists, there were 260 participants at Saturday’s festival.
“Considering the weather [threat of rain] held off, we’re having an excellent turnout,” James said late Saturday afternoon. “Actually this kind of weather is better than when it’s blistering hot so I’m delighted.”
James said the festival is “meeting community demands.”
For example, at the wildly popular children’s venue there were more performers, larger equipment and “more for the kids to do,” James said.
As for her own Arts Alive experience, James’ day is “super busy” from seven in the morning until about 11 a.m.
“Then I get a nice opportunity to walk around and make sure I say ‘hi’ to everybody at least once,” she said.
Just east of where Barker was performing along Fraser Highway, Barbara Mallar and her cousin Anne Doubleday sold Greg’s Gear, handed knitted and crocheted socks, cowels, gloves, and children’s wear with proceeds going to Canuck Place Children’s Hospice.
One hundred per cent of what they sold went to Canuck Place in memory of Mallar’s son Greg, who died from brain cancer on June 29, 2011.
Greg was 45.
“He loved kids and we wanted to do something to honour him,” Mallar said. “He was just a good person, a really good guy.”
“He always gave really big bear hugs,” Doubleday added.
Near McBurney Lane, David Tribe, who paints art through the Langley Association for Community Living, had some of his acrylic paintings on display.
“I’m an artist and I know how to do this kind of work,” he said proudly.