Festival of Hope Highlights Suicide Prevention

Hope 1Now in its fourth year, the Festival of Hope is one of the most unique experiences available in our community. (See more about the festival on page 19.) This free two-day event (happening Sept. 28-29) showcases a broad collection of artists, musicians, dancers and presenters, and includes a plethora of activities open for public participation. The event was founded to highlight suicide prevention in a positive and creative way. Also featured will be resource and information booths for mental and behavioral health care, drug and alcohol recovery, services for veterans, The Trevor Project, foster care and adoptions, and numerous other services and organizations.

The festivities begin with the 2nd Annual Walk of Hope on Saturday, September 28, at Del Lago Park in Tulare. Check-in and registration opens at 8:30 a.m., with ceremonies beginning at 9 and the walk commencing at 10. The Walk of Hope is centered on increasing awareness of mental and behavioral health as well as suicide prevention. Attendees are encouraged to create their own t-shirts, form teams, and enjoy the morning. This year’s walk will feature a series of paintings by local artist Steven Suggs, “My Hope Is…” canvases, and information about symptoms of mental illness, as well as the risk and protective factors related to suicide. If you have lost a loved one to suicide, this is a great opportunity to memorialize the person you lost. Parking is available at the Tulare Outlet Center, and a shuttle will run between the Outlets and Del Lago Park, helping to make participation more convenient.

After completing the Walk of Hope, opening ceremonies for the Festival of Hope begin at the Tulare Outlet Center at noon. From noon until 10 p.m., the Main Stage will feature free performances and concerts, starting with a magic show and followed by cultural performances by Ballet Folklorica Sierra Linda, the Tule River Dancers, Tseem Tub Ntxhais (a Hmong dance troupe), Los Chubascos Del Norte and the Tule River Drummers. The evening, organized by the Sound N Vision Foundation, will be punctuated with additional free concerts featuring the Song Preservation Society, Caught a Ghost, and our festival headliner from the U.K., Big Black Delta.

Performances continue on Sunday starting at 12:30 p.m. with the return of the magician, followed by Momentum Dance Academy, the Tule River Drummers and Dancers, the Tulare Youth Cheer League, Zumba and Ted Nunes. The Sunday evening lineup by the Sound N Vision Foundation will feature some of the Central Valley’s most popular bands: Mezcal, Gospel Whiskey Runners, and headlined by Poor Man’s Poison.

All day, both days, a 450-foot-long tent will cover a section of the central parking area in the Outlets. This tent will house the Mural Area, featuring professional street painters Lorelle Miller, Genna Panzarella, Lisa Jones, Lysa Ashley and Jony Tolentino. These five artists will be joined by dozens of local muralists and mural teams. This is an opportunity for schools, service clubs, social groups, co-workers, families and individuals enjoy a wonderful weekend creating beauty in our community. Artists can arrive as early as 8 a.m. both days and can stay until the close of the event at 10 p.m. on Saturday, 9 p.m. on Sunday. Anyone wishing to join in and creature a mural should visit www.sptf.org. Registration is free, and chalk pastels will be provided. All murals should express themes of hope, and artists are encouraged to include sunflowers in their art.

For the little ones, there will be a Children’s Area under the clock tower in the Outlets. From noon until 6 p.m. on both days, children will enjoy the Tulare Super Target Reading Center, Music with a Kiddie Beat, illusionist The Amazing Jonathan, Bubbles the Clown, ScienceDipity, the All Aboard Train and a visit from Visalia Rawhide mascot Tipper the Bull. Both days of the event will also feature pet adoptions, making this an opportunity to bring hope to a lovable cat or dog. The children’s area will also showcase a City of Tulare fire engine, free face painting, fingernail art by Red Nails & Lipstick, and hair decorations by Headlines Salon.

New to this year’s activities will be a series of workshops, trainings and documentary videos. These sessions will be held at the Charter Inn & Suites in Tulare, which is just across the parking lot from the Outlets. These sessions will take place starting at 10 a.m. and will run throughout the festival. Presentations will include The Trevor Project’s Lifeguard Workshop, the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s (NAMI) workshop titled “Ending the Silence,” and documentary films “This Emotional Life, “A New State of Mind” and others.

The Festival of Hope is one of the major ways that the Tulare & Kings Counties Suicide Prevention Task Force (SPTF) connects with the community and works with partnering organizations to make resources and information as easy to access as possible. Suicide can be an incredibly difficult subject to talk about. The festival provides a comfortable atmosphere, charged with energy and beauty, and makes resources available that make the conversation about suicide easier. The Festival of Hope isn’t about death but about saving lives, and that is truly something to celebrate.

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