Giant lily pads. Zany Astroturf furniture. Squiggles of turf in the middle of Penn Avenue. The Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival’s brand-new LilyPad Park won’t look like anything you’ve seen in downtown Pittsburgh. Inspired by the festival’s new location in the Cultural District, LilyPad Park offers a central, green space for dozens of free activities and great events by local Pittsburgh artists.
To begin designing this “pop-up park,” the International Children’s Festival and production partners Flyspace Productions enlisted the landscape architecture graduate students of Chatham University. The end result—dubbed LilyPad Park because of the Astroturf lily pads the student designs had incorporated—will be a turf-wrapped central hub for all festival-going families. An important consideration when designing the park, notes Michelina Pollini, Programming Assistant for the International Children’s Theatre, was to have a green space where kids could play safely—something that is not easily accessible for families among the buildings and asphalt of downtown. “There is Point State Park,” Pollini says, “But that’s a long walk for little legs!”
Cory Cope of Flyspace agrees. “Green space creates a welcome gathering place for families between indoor theatre productions, and a place to meet other families and take part in outdoor activities.” LilyPad Park is exactly that space. The park will host dozens of free outdoor activities for kids and families, including a giant sandbox (in conjunction with the Teater My show Little Steps), a “Silent Disco” by Silent Storm, a Lego racecar track (with Steel City Lug), and performances by local storytellers, dancers, and kid-friendly musical groups.
One of the most exciting activities new to this year’s lineup is “Stick, Stuck, Chalk,” a geometric chalkboard structure where kids can add their own chalk drawings and slap on big polka-dot stickers. During last year’s festival, Pollini and other PICF staffers noticed that, when the chalk belonging to the festival’s professional chalk artists was left unattended, kids flocked to draw their own sidewalk creations—a happy coincidence that inspired “Stick, Stuck, Chalk” to be built for 2014. “We have the chalk and the stickers,” says Pollini. “Kids just have to come and be creative!”
Alongside the free activities and stage performances will also be Architects of Air’s Miracoco luminarium, a beautiful inflatable work of art that glows inside with light and color. There will also be a food-court area, with food trucks onsite during the festival’s weekend hours. Plenty of nearby restaurants will also be featuring kid-friendly options for festival-going families.
LilyPad Park is centrally located in the Cultural District, at 8th Street and Penn Avenue. Just look for the brightly colored luminarium and the giant lily pads—you can’t miss it. The fun begins May 14th at 9 a.m. For tickets to Little Steps and Miracoco, call 412-445-6666 or visit the box office online at TrustArts.org/PghKids