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Good Morning friend!
Colorado artist enjoys weekend in Gering
June 17, 2010 Jerry Purvis    Lisa Betz/Gering Citizen

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Performance artist, Robert Aiken, plays Bruiser the Ragdog, to the delight of young and old alike.

Robert Aiken, a performance artist from Estes Park, Colo., has done shows in the area before, but his first one in Gering left a positive impression.

Aiken roamed through Legion Park during the Gering Arts Festival as “Bruiser the Ragdog,” delighting the crowd that braved the rain to attend the show.

“The kids just ate him up,” said festival organizer Lisa Betz. “Even adults were pointing and giggling and petting Bruiser. He was truly a hit.”

In a telephone interview, Aiken said he had performed in the area before, but this was his first show in Gering.

“I never know quite what to expect from festivals because every one of them is different,” he said. “People here were nice and everything was good. The weather complicated things and I was impressed the organizers were able to keep things moving in spite of the rain. When you plan an event outside, you just have to deal with it.”

Aiken said he got started working with puppets in about 1972, which became a full-time job in 1980. For about 14 years of that time, he and his wife did shows together.

But after they moved from Iowa to Colorado, Aiken’s wife got a job with the local public library. So in the early 1990s, he began doing solo shows. Working through an agent, he’s traveled to fairs and shows around the nation and in Canada.
“It’s always good to see a group of people dedicated to staging these types of events,” Aiken said. “Most people don’t realize just how complicated it is to put on a festival. There are just so many details involved.”

Aiken said that through his performance, he got a very different impression of Gering. He’s been through town on his way to other venues in the area, but never gave the town much thought.

“It really seems there’s some positive spirit in your town,” he said. “I really liked reading the local newspaper.”

While Aiken had the opportunity to roam the crowd as Bruiser, his afternoon puppet show was cancelled due to the rain. But event organizers said they would like to have him back next year, hopefully with better weather.

Darlene Tagler, president of the Gering Merchants, said almost twice the number artists attended the festival this year as compared with the previous year. And many of the artists reported good sales for the event.

“Considering the wet weather, I think we had a great showing of both artists and entertainment,” Tagler said. “I’ve received comments from parents who said it was a great time for their children. I appreciate all the entertainment sticking it out for us.”

Winners were also announced for the chalk art contest during the Gering Arts Festival. The top winners in the preschool (through kindergarten) division were Aaron Rawlings and Michael West. In the grade school division (grades 1-6), it was Madilyn Barraza and Rebekah Rawlings. Adult division winners (7th grade completed and older) were Alex Colsson and Martin Vargas. The grand prize winner of $100 was Alex Vargas.

“We’ll continue to work to make the festival better each year by bringing in new artists and entertainers regionally,” festival chairwoman Lisa Betz said. “Each year should offer something new and exciting.”
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