Calhoun-Gordon County preschoolers were visited by aliens on Wednesday morning at the Harris Arts Center. Local performer Laurel Alford wowed the children with her balloon show about two students, Bill and Ted, who were visited by Al the Alien in a dream when they should’ve been working on their school project.
Alford is a regular performer in the Harris Arts Center’s Preschool Pops program, which first began in 2002 with sponsorship from the Mohawk Carpet Foundation. She comes every year to help the children develop a love and passion for the arts at an early age. During her shows, students are asked to come up on stage and act out the different characters who populate her stories. Those in the audience also get a chance to help out with the performance by creating background noise and sound effects.
“The humans put up their hands and screamed, ‘Ahhhh!’ They waved their hands in the air like this,” Alford told the crowd, encouraging them to wave their arms around their heads. “And they ran, like this!”
As of now, the Preschool Pops program sponsors six different performances throughout the year, all of which feature different performers and art types including everything from puppeteers and singers to musicians and storytellers. The program also invites the drama departments at Gordon Central and Sonoraville high schools to perform in front of the preschoolers.
Harris Arts Center Director Jennifer Dudley said she is thankful for the diversity of the shows they are able to put on for the kids and that she is particularly happy that the school drama departments are able to come out.
“The little ones love it when they see their heroes, the big kids, up on the stage performing. They get excited about it and they think it’s the coolest thing,” Dudley said. “We want to foster a lifelong love of the arts in these kids, so I am happy they get to see what the next step could look like for them if they stay plugged in.”
The Harris Arts Center pays all of its Preschool Pops performers, including the drama departments. Dudley said it was important to her that they be paid in the same way that outside performers are paid.
“It’s a good way for them to make a little money and do something great for the younger kids at the same time,” she said.
At the end of the balloon show on Wednesday, students cheered as they tossed around a balloon globe colored to look like the Earth. Smiling and laughing, they tossed it back and forth and giggled on their way out the door.
“That’s what we do all of this for,” Dudley said. “We want them to have a good time and grow to love the arts. Seeing that, that’s what this is about.”