New giant puppet added each year by local artists

Estacada is a town with a lot of artistic traditions. It all began with annual weekend mural painting by local artists' group Artback Artists, and that led to the opening of the Spiral Gallery downtown and the annual Estacada Summer Celebration centered around the annual mural-making.

The celebration, which started in 2000, has its own traditions too, and one of the most striking are the giant puppets that are paraded throughout the festival.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: BEVERLY CORBELL - From left, Nina Bradford, Lisa Brookshier, Carol Kleps and Jane Reid of the Estacada Area Arts Commission apply muslin strips to what will become the body of a giant paper mache puppet of Cocker Spaniel puppy for the Estacada Summer Celebration July 26.  Each year a new puppet is added by a local artist and this year it's Nina Bradford's turn. Her design is for a giant puppy, with a fat round body, a head about two feet wide and floppy ears, modeled after her white and brown spotted Cocker Spaniel.

The puppy's head — sans ears — was drying on a pedestal in Bradford's studio last week while volunteers Jane Reid, Carol Kleps and Lisa Brookshire dipped strips of muslin in art paste and applied it to the puppy's round body, built over a giant balloon.

First the balloon is pasted over with “layers and layers and layers” of brown paper bags, Bradford said, and then three layers of muslin. Then it will be set in the sun to dry, allowing the balloon to expand and take out any bumps.

Reid, who founded the celebration to honor the town's annual mural painting, said all the decorations and giant puppets are made by local artists.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: BEVERLY CORBELL - Artist Nina Bradford checks on what will become the head of a giant paper mache puppet of a puppy dog for the Estacada Summer Celebration this weekend.“We've accumulated quite a few interesting ones,” she said.

Celebrating the new mural is still the main purpose of this festival, but it has grown every year. Starting on Friday night, Broadway Street is closed with live music on the big city stage following the traditional “Music Crawl” from 6-7:30 p.m. with live music at local businesses. The big stage opens with Harken playing from 7:15-8:15 p.m. followed by Hip Stew from 8:30-10 p.m.

The entertainment starts again at 11:30 a.m. on the main stage with Circus Cascadia, followed by Solomon Crow at 12:30 p.m., Smut City Jellryroll Society at 2 p.m., Get Rythym at 3:30 p.m., Axe Dide at 5 p.m. Manimalhouse at 6:30 p.m. and the Freak Mountain Ramblers as the closing act from 8:30-10 p.m.

And that's not all.

“Saturday morning brings fun activities for children with giant puppets, lots of live music, free hands-on art activities for kids and adults, a silent art auction, lots of food vendors and the beautiful Broadway Street Art Fair,” states the arts commission website.

Kleps, a retired sixth grade teacher, is in charge of children's art activities and said this year has a lot to offer.

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: NINA BRADFORD - Giant puppets, this one designed by artist Nina Bradford, make appearances every year at the Estacada Summer Festival. This years new puppet will be a giant puppy dog.“We'll have face painting, a clay booth, pioneer crafts from the Philip Foster Farm, making fish prints by the folks at McIver Park — they use a rubber fish — and also leaf tracings, which is appropriate for really young children,” she said.

There will also be art projects for adults and older children, Kleps said, like making necklaces out of beads.

“There's also stuff for teens, like spin art,” she said. “You use a salad spinner and put in a paper plate with a drop of paint in the center. Put the lid on and spin and the paint spreads out in tendrils.”

Skip-a-Week Quilt Club will also have members on hand to teach kids to make potholders using quilting techniques. The club also holds its annual show from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 25-26.

A local orchestra, called OrchEstraCada, will also be on hand so kids can see orchestra instruments up close.

“It lets the kids explore and feel the instruments at an 'instrument petting zoo' where they'll have all kinds, like violins, little pianos and cellos.”

Another act sure to please both kids and adults is the clown group Circus Cascadia, which will kick off Friday night at the main stage, Reid said and will give workshops the next day.

“They'll teach kids stilt walking and circus skills,” she said. “They'll do a workshop all Saturday afternoon and we're very excited to have them.”

A core group of about 20 works on the festival year round, Reid with about 100 volunteers during the day Saturday, including community members, the Estacada High National Honor Society, Timberlake Job Corps and invaluable help from the city of Estacada.

“The city helps a lot,” Reid said. “The Estacada Area Arts Commission is a city comission and public works helps moving the stage.”

Many other community groups help, she said, but more volunteers as well as donations are always appreciated. Learn more at

“There are always people willing to join in and help us and a lot have been doing it a long time,” she said. “But we always welcome new volunteers and are so grateful to our donors.”

The budget for the Summer Celebration is only $21,000, she said, and most is to pay talent.

“Most of the money goes to paying musicians, and then things like tends and toilet rentals,” she said. “We can do it because of volunteers and local support. We don't want to get bigger and bigger but rather get better and better.”

The Estacada Summer Celebration is always held on the fourth weekend in July, coinciding with the painting of the mural by Artback Artists. This year's mural is designed by John Freese and is the third in a series on the walls of the Harvest Market on Main Street.

“Doing murals keeps the artists in touch,” Reid said. “It led to the Spiral Gallery, the downtown exhibit space, and attracts other artists, like Jon Birchfield who does Northwest Coast carvings, totem poles and masks and will give demonstrations this year.”

The annual celebration is important for bringing outside people to downtown Estacada, Reid said, and she hopes locals will come too.

“It brings about 3,000 visitors each year and we really want people to come downtown,” she said. “So many people work out of town but don't come downtown. But this is good for a community gathering.”