Free seems to be the magic word when describing Hamilton’s arts and literary festival Imagine in the Park. Last year more than 4,000 children attended the festival, returning home with a free book and a bag of homemade crafts. More importantly, their spark of creativity was ignited and their imaginations allowed to run wild.
This year’s festival will take place at Gage Park on Saturday, June 2 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Officially, the festival is for children ranging from ages 5 to 12, but parents, grandparents, and teenage siblings are also welcome.
As children and their parents arrive at the festival, they choose a free book. Books are organized according to skill level and age group. After registration, children can choose from 17 free activities ranging from pottery to T-shirt printing, dance, creating musical instruments, story writing, poetry, and more. Another feature of this year’s festival is a performance by well-known children’s entertainer Dan Devion.
Sharon Levy-Cohen is the creator and mastermind of the festival.
“I wanted to contribute in some way to the children of Hamilton,” said the teacher and librarian. “Because art is one of my passions, I decided it was a good fit for Hamilton to have an arts and literacy festival. It was also very important to work with like-minded people because I knew I couldn’t do it all by myself.”
Art and literature are a natural mix, said Levy-Cohen. She believes both are important creative elements of schooling, citing research that consistently shows that without the arts, children accomplish much less in school.
“I want children to learn and create in an alternate setting,” she said.
The festival makes a special effort to include children with physical or learning deficits. One of the pre-requisites is for artists to modify the expectation of activities for children with special needs.
Gabriella, 11, has attended Imagine in the Park for the last four years. “The festival is so cool,” she said. “It’s special because you get to do all this cool stuff for free and bring home a book and lots of fun pieces of artwork.”
If you’d like to join the 27 teenage and 25 adult volunteers to create Imagine in the Park, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (905) 572-6679.