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People interested in making giant puppets for Buskers in the Burg — and building community in the process — can get involved anytime this month and next.

The puppets will be in the Arts Parade before the festival starts on Sept. 25. The theme this year is 1950s space with aliens and robots, or anything science fiction related.

Brian Kooser, a local puppeteer, showed up in a 12-foot tall robot puppet to the first festival in 2011. He quickly won over the small crowd. He was asked to make more puppets for the festival and the Arts Parade kicked off the event the following year.

“The very first time they did it, when they didn’t have something to start it off, there weren’t that many people attending,” said Kooser. “As soon as we started to work it out the way we have now, it’s become a much bigger event.”

Arts Parade

The Arts Parade is funded through the Ellensburg Downtown Association and the Ellensburg Arts Commission.

Kooser, 52, a longtime puppeteer and designer, has been in charge of building puppets for the festival for the past four years.

He attended Central Washington University where he studied puppetry and design. He later worked for a theater, painting sets and sculpting puppets. Kooser is best known for the puppets he makes for the Fremont Arts Council’s yearly Solstice Parade.

“I do it as a community building exercise,” he said about constructing puppets for the festival. “So many of the people on campus don’t go into town and so many of the people in town have kind of wanted to separate themselves from the university so this is a way that people can come together and create something for everybody.”

New and old

Puppets are usually repurposed and used again in following years. There are about 30 puppets in the studio that are being worked on, although not all of them are new.

“A lot of the puppets are finished already, but every year we have a different theme. With that we build a whole new set of puppets so there’s new puppets to see every year,” Kooser said. “Right now it’s just a matter of building the new ones and finding volunteers that want to wear the old ones so we can have the best parade we can.”

Lightweight materials, such as papier-mâché, cardboard and foam are used to ensure that the puppets aren’t too heavy for people to carry on their backs, Kooser said.

Getting involved

Puppet-making sessions are scheduled each evening and on weekends next to the Bluestone Academy in downtown Ellensburg. Volunteers can learn all sorts of new skills, like sculpting and carpentry, during the workshops. Kooser said the skills are transferable to a variety of other mediums such as ceramics and plaster.

Kooser said the theme is still broad, with some volunteers making alien pin-ups and big, goofy robots. One member wants to construct an alien autopsy puppet.

“All ideas are welcome and nothing is too ridiculous,” he said.

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