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Artists on the River festival returns to city

Eighth annual event runs in conjunction with Rivers Day in the city next weekend

You'll forgive Cindy Sale if she's spending a lot of time watching the sky and the weather forecast.

She's hard at work at the Fraser River Discovery Centre putting together next weekend's Artists on the River festival, and she's hoping Mother Nature will decide to smile on the event for its eighth incarnation.

If not, never fear: Artists on the River is ready to go rain or shine, and Sale promises it's going to be a great day either way.

Artists on the River, as always, is being held in conjunction with B.C. Rivers Day and World Rivers Day, bringing a celebration of the arts to the riverfront in conjunction with the opening of the Discovery Centre's new Heart of the Fraser exhibit.

It runs Friday, Sept. 23 from 5 to 9 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 24 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Westminster Quay waterfront.

"What we're trying to do is touch base on all the different arts," Sale explains.

That means Friday night's opening celebration will embrace the culinary arts, with food tastings from the various tenants at River Market. There will also be live entertainment by the RazzMaJazz trio, who'll start their night at River Market and then wander over to the Fraser River Discovery Centre for the last portion of the evening.

The actual opening ceremonies will be at 7 p.m. at the Discovery Centre. That's when the centre unveils its Heart of the Fraser exhibition, which focuses on the section of the river between Hope and Mission - which, Sale notes, is a particularly rich and beautiful section of the river.

A number of artists will be on hand for the opening night as well, displaying a couple of pieces each at the Discovery Centre.

On Saturday, all the fun moves out to the boardwalk - or, in the event of rain, indoors to the River Market and to the upper level of the Discovery Centre.

Either way, the day will be packed full of arts and entertainment.

The festival is attracting a wide range of artists to share their work with visitors. The list was still growing at press time but already included such artists Maria Palotas, Solveig Brickenden, Susan OttoBain, Vicki Urbich, Eileen Fong, Anthony Hollenstein, Oliver B. Malana Sr., Iryna Nikitinska, Wendy Schmidt, Sophie St. Pierre and the Artists in the Boro group from Queensborough.

The stage will also feature a day full of entertainment, kicking off at 11 a.m. with Junior Been, a five-piece jazz group from New Westminster Secondary School.

At noon, visitors can enjoy the Kokoma African Heritage Dance and Drum Ensemble, while young new-country performers Robyn and Ryleigh Gillespie take to the stage at 12: 45 p.m.. The Kokoma ensemble also reappears at 2: 30 p.m.

At 1: 30 p.m., the popular Tiller's Folly is in the spotlight, returning again at 3: 15 p.m. to close out the festival.

Sale noted that there's a new feature at this year's festival: In the down time between music sets, visitors will be entertained by slam poets.

"They're all local, and a lot of them are youth," she notes, adding that the poets were recruited by the city's poet laureate, Candice James.

The performers include NWSS students Julian Legere and Vincent Gnitt, along with UBC student Alberto Cristoffanini. Also set to perform are Reese McBeth and Jillian Christmas.

"I'm really looking forward to hearing them," Sale notes.

For more about the festival and a complete list of participating performers and artists, check out www.fraserriver