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Guest opinion: Children's Festival, a great weekend for families

One of my favorite weekends of the year is upon us. On June 1-2, thousands of joyful children - spread across 13 blocks of downtown Saint Paul - will experience the wonder of international performing arts at little or no cost to parents. Flint Hills Resources is proud to partner with the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts to bring the Flint Hills International Children's Festival to our community for the 13th consecutive year.

In 2001 the Ordway and Flint Hills Resources set out to create one of the country's first international children's festivals. At the time, performing arts festivals - especially ones geared toward children - were extremely rare in the United States. Today the festival is one of the best international performing arts festivals for children in the world. The event has reached nearly 500,000 people since its inception and grows more popular every year. We are fortunate to live and work in a community with such a thriving arts culture.

Encouraging creativity needs to start at a young age, but too often in today's society the arts are viewed as a luxury. That's why events like these are so important. More than 50,000 people are expected to attend the festival, where regional and international artists will dazzle children and families with puppetry, dance, music, drama and acrobatics. Children will interact with magicians, balloon artists and face painters, as well as participate in art-making activities. Touring artists at this year's festival will come from countries all around the world, including China, Italy, Cuba, Canada and Australia. Nowhere else in Minnesota can families experience such a broad range of performances by some of the world's most talented artists.

Some of this year's most exciting performances include acrobats from China, who will share with us their incredible performance of Cirque Ziva. The group's thrilling acrobatics and back-bending contortions will electrify crowds. Sway Poles, a group from Melbourne, Australia, will also perform their captivating act with performers perched atop 15-foot high flexible poles bending and swaying in the air.

I encourage you to bring your family to the festival this weekend. It will hardly make a dent in your pocketbook. (Outdoor performances are free, and indoor performances on Ordway stages cost only $5.) And while you're there, stop by the Flint Hills activity tent and say hi to our employees. The opportunity to share the arts of other cultures without the expense of flying to a different country is an opportunity not to be missed.

Scott Lindeman is vice president and manufacturing manager at Flint Hills Resources