There's nothing quite like a giant dinosaur puppet to make scores of tiny jaws drop and eyes go wide – and that's what will no doubt happen when Erth's Dinosaur Zoo roams onstage at this year's Vancouver International Children's Festival.
The show, which hails from Australia, is just one of several performances from around the globe, and features prehistoric insects, mammals and 10-foot-long dinosaurs that kids get to see up close and even touch.
"The dinosaurs are very lifelike and beautiful," says festival artistic and executive director Katharine Carol. "It's a very participatory show, and you completely believe there's a live dinosaur onstage in front of your eyes. So it's really fun. And they're big."
Other high-profile performances include Germany's The Frog King, which sees Matthias Kuchta's stunning puppets in an adaptation of the Grimms' fairy tale, and Australia's Kaput, a Vaudevillian-style clown comedy by Tom Flanagan that sees the main character, Mr. Fixit, hilariously trying to get a silent film working.
Local acrobats and circus artists are putting a high-flying spin on the Lewis Carroll classic Through the Looking-Glass, and smaller tots can take in Where I Live, a show from Quebec that celebrates children's place in the world. The Dancers of Damelahamid will also perform Gitxsan First Nations dances in bear, eagle and raven masks and regalia.
Musical offerings include fan favourite Fred Penner; local luminary Rick Scott performing songs and moments from The Great Gazzoon with his 12-year-old granddaughter Lilu; and Le Groupe Swing, a Quebecois group whose music fuses fast fiddling, R&B, rock and traditional French music.
"They really mix up the music and it's super high-energy," Ms. Carol says. "You just want to get up and start dancing as soon as they start playing."
Now in its 37th year, the fest also comes with mask-making, face painting, bicycle spin art, a sound installation with instruments made from everyday objects and a giant dinosaur sculpture that kids can help shape.
"Kids really like to feel they're part of making something, and that they've been included in something," says Ms. Carol of the responses she regularly receives. "It's not a bigger festival with a kids portion. This is theirs. This is for them."
The Vancouver International Children's Festival runs through Sunday (childrensfestival.ca).