The annual Buskers in the Burg

The sun head body puppeteer walks in the Arts Parade during the festival.

The sun head body puppeteer walks in the Arts Parade during the festival.

Jack Lambert

Jack Lambert

The sun head body puppeteer walks in the Arts Parade during the festival.

Daisy Perez, Scene Editor

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Children with glittery face paint look in awe as giant puppets fill the crowded streets. One puppeteer wears a dark purple robe with the puppet’s skeleton chest exposed. Children grab onto their mothers’ sweaters as the skeleton puppet glides along, turning his skeleton head and wide eyes at the audience. Other puppets are more playful, like the giant lobster and red robot, who wave to the children and interact with other puppets.

Giant puppeteers, dancers, singers, musicians, cloggers and jugglers have one thing in common: They’re all street performers, also known as buskers. The annual Buskers in the Burg festival is presented by the Ellensburg Downtown Association.

There will be a Busker Preview Night on Friday, Sept. 29, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Students and Ellensburg residents will be able to preview the buskers’ performances at different locations: Iron Horse Brewery, Cornerstone Pie, Dark Moon Craft Beer, Fire and Smoke and Dakota Café.

A moving circuit could also be an option for those who want to stay in one of three locations: D&M Coffee, Grapes and Crepes and Gard Vintners. These locations will host singers and musicians These Guitars Say Sorry, David Douglas and David McLemore.

Carolyn Honeycutt, director at the Ellensburg Downtown Association, said the festival was inspired by her husband. She created the event in 2011.

“My husband is a porch musician,” Honeycutt said. “He thought it would be a great idea. I didn’t even know what a busker was so I had to educate myself on it,” Honeycutt said.

Honeycutt wanted buskers to perform for the festival and also have children’s activities. The festival has grown so much that they expect 2,000 student, residents and people outside of Ellensburg to attend this year.

The festival will feature 14 busker acts throughout downtown. One of the buskers is 67-year-old PK Dwyer. Dwyer has been a professional busker for over 50 years. He was also the first busker to appear at the Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle.

He plays acoustic-style blues and folk music and it is all original. Dwyer busks 200-250 days a year. He performs at state fairs, farmer’s markets and street corners around Washington.

His mother introduced to him music and he has been playing music since he was 5. She was a singer, writer and poet.

Dwyer was also inspired by Elvis Presley, which is why he plays the guitar.

“I remember going into my first-grade class and playing songs for them-I can barely remember a time when I wasn’t playing,” Dwyer said.

This will be Dwyer’s third year at the festival. His favorite part of the festival is the parade. He goes along with giant puppeteers and hands out stickers that say “Buskers are Beautiful!”

“The Buskers in the Burg is the best busker’s festival. I love it. It’s really well run and I’m always looking forward to it,” Dwyer said.

Molly Jones, assistant director at the Ellensburg Downtown Associations, said Saturday events starts at 10 a.m.

“The art parade features people that wear puppets on their person, and [the puppets] are massive,” Jones said.

CWU alumni Brian Kooser, now a local puppeteer, graduated CWU with a master’s in fine arts and sculptures.

Kooser has had 24 years experience in making and designing puppets. Prior to becoming a puppeteer, he worked for a company and would often get bored and play with sticky labels. He would make different sculptures, mostly figures.

Kooser wanted a more creative career and his friend introduced him to a woman who owned a puppet company. Kooser met and interviewed with the woman for a designer position, but later received a call from her to offer him a position as a puppeteer since all her puppeteers quit.

“I thought about it and wasn’t sure if that was really my cup of tea, but decided to do it anyways,” Kooser said. “I ended up designing and making all of her puppets and training all of her puppeteers.”

When Kooser attended CWU he volunteered to be a busker at the festival. He created giant puppets and wandered around the streets. The following year he was contacted by the Ellensburg Downtown Association to participate again in the festival to draw more people in. Kooser happily agreed and created the arts parade.

“There’s several community members and drama CWU students [without whom] we wouldn’t be able to [design and create] any of this at all. They volunteer their time and I’m happy to teach them all the skills that I have,” Kooser said.  People come down from Seattle and Leavenworth because they want to be part of [the festival].”

It takes thousands of hours for Kooser and his team to prepare for the festival. Kooser will not only have giant puppets, but body puppets and flying puppets as well.

“This is my fifth year doing the parade in Ellensburg, and I enjoy doing the show because the people aren’t jaded and [are] open to telling us how they feel about the puppets,” Kooser said. “We work hard to make these things come to life.”

For children to be able to participate in the kids activities, parents need to print out, complete and hand in the liability form that can be found at

The kids activities start on Saturday, Sept. 30 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Jones also said, “There’s going to be kids activities like bounce houses, pony rides, pumpkin painting, arts and crafts and professional dance troops performers who juggle and do tricks with fire and balancing acts.”

Jack Lambert
The sun head body puppeteer walks in the Arts Parade during the festival.

There will also be pictures with Disney characters and chalk art with Rodeo City Roller Girls. The kids activities will be located on Rotary Pavilion and Wells Fargo lot, 4th Avenue and North Pearl Street. The suggested donation for the kid’s activities are $3 per family.

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The annual Buskers in the Burg