VENTURA — Art is in the eye of the beholder, even if the beholder considers climbing trees a higher calling than learning about African tribal dances and Shakespeare.
The old adage never rang truer than it did Saturday, when more than 5,000 children and their parents converged on Mission Park in Ventura to take in the 15th annual Children's International Arts Festival.
Area artists set up 17 booths to show off their talents and give the children a hands-on experience in arts and crafts from around the world, including demonstrations of origami, Native American sand painting and the making of Mexican paper flowers.
No two children could agree on what type of art was their favorite.
"The painting stuff was the best," said 7-year-old Joe Yvorra, as he walked away from the east Asian brush painting booth. The Oxnard youth came to the festival with his mother and grandmother.
Five-year-old Nancy Armstrong of Camarillo had little to say when asked her favorite booth, but she proudly displayed an origami bird.
"We couldn't get her away from the origami," said Nancy's mother, Linda Armstrong.
All the while, Shakespearean actors, African dancers and puppet shows provided background noise on a corner stage as children cluttered around one booth or another, learning how to make miniature kites, Native American rain sticks and North American quilts.
Will & Co. presented bits of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" while Jim Gamble's Puppets put on a play and the Ventura Klezmer Band performed Eastern European folk music.
"There is a enough here to satisfy everybody's taste in art," said Georgeanne Lees, the city worker who organized this year's event, which was free.
Then there was 4-year-old Jacob Hogan, an Arizona resident who attended the event with his aunt and uncle. When asked his favorite part of the day, he pointed to a giant oak tree in the middle of the park that was alive with children clambering up and down its thick trunk like a colony of ants.
"Climbing that tree was by far his favorite thing," said his aunt, Mary Roman.
Lees said the crowd Saturday was the largest ever.
"We even ran out of ice cream, " she said, nodding to the exhausted vendor slumped behind her empty freezer.