Revved up for Riley


GREENFIELD — The 106th annual Riley Festival — celebrating Greenfield favorite son, poet James Whitcomb Riley — runs through Sunday with parades and poetry, entertainment and elephant ears and competitions of all kinds. And just down the street, his childhood home beckons visitors for tours and more.

Each year, the festival returns with a mix of traditional and new events, and here’s a look a look at some happenings we have on our can’t-miss list.

History comes to life

At this year’s festival, you can see actors perform as James Whitcomb Riley and Edgar Allan Poe. Rob Velella, a Pittsburgh-area literary historian and actor, performs as Edgar Allan Poe at 3 p.m. Saturday at the H.J. Ricks Centre for the Arts, 122 W. Main St. for “Edgar Allan Poe: Master of the Macabre.” On Sunday, Chadwick Gillenwater performs as James Whitcomb Riley at 2 p.m. followed by Velella as Poe at 3 p.m. at the James Whitcomb Riley Boyhood Home, 250 W. Main St. Refreshments will be served, and audiences can enjoy the work of both poets peacefully reciting their works.

Cloggers take the spotlight

The Hearts Ablaze cloggers, under the direction of Cristy Corwin-Howard, perform at the Ricks Centre for the Arts from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Part of the performance, near the intermission, includes a dance from Luminosity from the Shares Inc. program.

The group of 25 to 30 men and women with disabilities, age 19 through 60, has been rehearsing since May for the debut performance at the Riley Festival, Corwin Howard said.

Luminosity means “the light within,” Corwin-Howard explained, as all the dance group within Hearts Ablaze are given names having to do with light or fire.

The Luminosity group will take the stage near the intermission to perform two numbers: “Can’t Stop This Feeling” and “Everybody Dance Now,” Corwin-Howard said.

And you won’t want to miss it, she added.

“They’re pretty awesome to watch.”

Spooktacular happenings dance into the Ricks

Wilkerson Dance Co. presents its Spooktacular Review twice Sunday at 1 and 3 p.m. at the Ricks Centre. Admission is free to this Halloween-themed recital featuring young dancers age 4 through 18 performing tap, ballet, jazz, modern, contemporary and hip hop during the 50-minute performance.

“Some dancers wear their Halloween costumes or orange and black,” said company director Debbie Wilkerson. “We don’t make it too spooky, because we have so many little kids. Just fun.”

Putting poetry back into the festival

In an effort to infuse more poetry into a festival celebrating a poet, two new poetry events have been added to the 2017 schedule.

The Twenty North gallery, 20 N. State St., will be open from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday for open mic poetry. Poets of all ages are welcome to come and read poems they have written or grab one of the available poetry books and read others’ works. No judging will take place; no prizes will be given. Those wanting to participate should sign in upon entering, and poems will be presented on a first-come, first-served basis. Readings will be presented in 10-minute increments.

Saturday, from 6 to 10 p.m., Griggsby’s Station, 101 W. Main St., hosts the inaugural Riley Festival Poetry Jam and Slam invitational for poets in the 21 and older age range. The audience will help judge each poet on content and performance, and prize money will be awarded.

The legacy of James Whitcomb Riley and his love of poetry is an important part of the Riley Festival, organizers said, and they hope this event will draw poets from all walks of life to express themselves through the spoken word.