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PHOTOS: Giant puppets set to infiltrate Penticton festival

Lower Mainland transplant and architect/designer/builder Geoff Orr made headlines all over the place in 2021 when news of the breathtaking 5,600 sq. ft. home he'd built for himself and his family in the hills high above Penticton escaped into the real world.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Geoff Orr and friend

It was – and is – nothing short of world class. But it's also eco-minded.

<who>Photo Credit: Geoff Orr</who> Geoff Orr's stunner on the hillside

The colossal beams for its upwardly-swept roof came from the old Penticton SuperValue store. One of the floors was created out of 12,000-plus pennies. Indeed, many of the most important elements incorporate recycled and/or reclaimed materials.

But these days, Orr has a new hobby. Puppets.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

Giant, home-made wearable puppets with built-in animatronics. And potentially a little plumbing as well.

Why plumbing? We’ve been sworn to secrecy.

Regardless, Orr's puppets, along with puppets built by other creative Pentictonites who've joined Orr in his obsession, will debut at this year's Ignite the Arts Festival, which runs March 22 to 31, 2024.

<who>Photo Credit: Johann Wessels</who> Naramata artiist Johann Wessels is concocting a coyote

Where exactly they'll be found is still a bit of a mystery aside from one certain spot – the Parade for No Reason, which gets underway at 6 pm, March 29 from the Elks Hall parking lot.

Something else we know with certainty is that Orr himself will be the human inside his own puppet. He'll make it move down the street, he'll make the beak open and close, and he'll do other things we can’t yet tell you about.

Why has Orr opted to head to the Penticton Art Gallery as of late to spearhead a giant puppet movement rather than chilling at his hillside chateau? He has a simple yet weighty answer.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

"I've built buildings most of my life and now I'm just learning how to build community," he told us earnestly as he slipped the head of his puppet over his own head.

Orr's creation is a bird – a magpie to be exact. And by the time it’s finished, it’ll have a full body and colours and some sort of representation of feathers.

And it'll be "mischievous."

"This is Ladra, the mischievous magpie," he said. "There's an orchestral piece by (Italian composer Gioachino) Rossini that's about this mischievous magpie who steals things. And this is it."

<who>Photo Credit: Geoff Orr</who> Geoff Orr's magpie gets some colour

Orr claims he's never built anything even remotely close to a giant puppet.

"I've never done this," he chuckled. "I went online and did an online sculpturing course and paid ten bucks from Domestika.

"I'm doing it primarily to support the arts. There's just not enough emphasis on the arts. It's so enjoyable creating something for fun rather than everybody grinding for a dollar every day of their life."

Also at the Gallery that night making puppets was Lynn Greene of Penticton, who told us she just likes to go the Gallery and "play with everybody." She'd created a super-cute giant dog head that'll have some tricks of its own.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Lynn Greene in a staring contest

"I'd started on another puppet and I didn’t like it so I trashed it," she laughed. "So this is take two.

"But if you look inside, it’s all boxes and zip ties. So I don’t know if people can wear it or just carry it. But we are trying to animate the eyeballs and the tongue."

Unlike Orr, Greene is a veteran at the artsy stuff.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

"I have a blue cow made of concrete sitting on a bicycle outside my house," she said. "And I made that. So I've done some really absurd things."

Not at the Gallery that night but certainly there in spirit was noted Naramata artist Johann Wessels.

Working from his studio, Wessels is creating yet another puppet – or at least a puppet head – for the parade and festival.

<who>Photo Credit: Johann Wessels</who>

"Geoff kind of suggested I do it," laughed Wessels. "And it seemed like a fun idea.

"It's a coyote. There won't be much more than a head, but the head is about the size of a wheelbarrow. It's big, but whoever wears it should be able to see out of it."

According to Wessels, it'll be purposely "rough."

<who>Photo Credit: Johann Wessels</who>

"It's made cardboard," he said. "Donated bicycle boxes from Bike Barn. And I'm not going to paint it. I've always had this thing about being true to the material you're working in, and this cardboard has a unique grammar and syntax."

Cardboard with grammar and syntax? All we know is that it looks way cool.

"Yep, Johann is part of the puppet brigade too," said PAG curator and Ignite co-captain Paul Crawford. "We think we'll have a half-dozen or more of them in time for the festival."

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

For more info on the Ignite the Arts Festival, hit up its website here.

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