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B is for bubbles

...and Blue Skies


Finding more than 100 gallons of Mr. Bubble formula was "a quest unto itself," says Sally Thurston, co-proprietor of The Blue Skies Inn of Manitou Springs. The brains behind the bubbles, Thurston and staff will fill the sky this weekend in the first annual Bubbles Over Colorado Festival.

Professional bubble-blowers from both coasts are performing, and hands-on activities will be offered continuously from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Stretch the Stiltwalking Clown, aka Denverite Bill Coleman, is bringing his giant puppets and 15-foot Solar-Powered Bubble Tower. Funny hats, costumes, food, music and bubbles will abound in Manitou's Memorial Park, and best of all -- admission is free.

Thurston says the whole idea started with kite flying. Bubble guy Felix Cartagena of Delaware, her longtime friend and co-creator of mischief, was and is a kite-flying enthusiast. He engineered and built several bubble machines to ascertain wind conditions on the flying fields, including the Ephemeral Sculpture Machine, which can create bubbles 3 feet wide and 12 feet long. Cartagena will be one of the bubble masters at the festival.

Also attending is The Bubblesmith, Sterling Johnson of San Francisco -- a magic soap-poet who uses only his hands, his breath and bubbly water to create iridescent wonder spheres of amazing dimension. Light, music and a short-sleeved tuxedo are his only props. He will perform all day on Saturday, May 8, in City Hall (at 606 Manitou Ave., down the street from the park).

Putting together a bubble festival isn't as light and airy a task as it sounds, however, says Thurston. First there was the problem of finding enough solution -- the basis of the bubbles. Since some machines use upwards of 30 gallons of bubble soap in a day, Thurston knew she would need plenty of raw material for Bubbles Over Colorado. How she found it involved visiting every Toys R Us store within a 70-mile radius of Colorado Springs. And that was just the beginning.

"Each stage led to grander and grander plans," said Thurston. "We had to write to the Colorado Department of Transportation and everything. It was Felix [Cartagena] who claimed it would be easy. I'm gonna get him for this."

Thurston found herself building the Web site, arranging the flyers, ordering propeller beanies, and arranging for the professionals' bubble machines to be sent through the mail -- part by part. The reassembled equipment will be tested at the Blue Skies Inn, so Manitou residents might see some early bubbles wafting over the inn's landmark entryway, a rainbow arch 30 feet high, painted light blue with white clouds. Manitou Elementary School kids will also get a foretaste of bubble magic, as the Blue Skies staff plans to offer a festival preview on Friday as part of the school's "All Arts" program.

Kids of all ages -- "and precocious grownups" -- can enjoy giant tables of bubble liquid with "myriad and multiple bubble instruments to play with," said Thurston. Bubble toys, T-shirts and "bejeweled and beribboned" wands are available for on-the-spot Mother's Day gifts. Yakibob's will provide signature "wholesome fast food," and everyone who ever wanted a propeller beanie can get one. Rumors of a giant tricycle and an impromptu sidewalk parade are unconfirmed, but Bubbles Over Colorado promises to deliver some effervescent fun.

capsule Bubbles Over Colorado Festival

Saturday, May 8 and Sunday, May 9, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Memorial Park and City Hall, Manitou Springs


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