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Kids and theater celebrated at Minnesota State Fair

It's Kids Day at the Great Minnesota Get Together as well as Theater Day at Dan Patch Park.

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. — It's Kids Day at the Minnesota State Fair and that means a discounted admission of $13 for children aged five to 12. It's also Theater Day at Dan Patch Park within the fairgrounds, where St. Paul-based ETC Productions showed two free performances of "Madagascar Jr."

Cast member Aniya Bostick is relatively new to theater. The 15-year-old Apple Valley High School student says "Madagascar Jr." is her fourth-ever theater production. Yet she was cast as Marty, the zebra, and anyone who has seen the popular DreamWorks movie knows that's a big role.

"I hope in my lifetime to maybe make it on Broadway but if not, I would want to start a music career," Bostick said.

She's certainly getting experience. Throughout the summer, she and the cast performed more than 40 times at venues across the Twin Cities metro.

"We started at this church, House of Hope," Bostick said. "All of the people in the neighborhood came to see. It was just a really good, like, starter."

And what better ender to their months-long tour than the Minnesota State Fair on what is both Kids Day at the fair and Theater Day at the park.

"It is free and accessible to everyone," said Emily Villano, the company's co-founder and musical director. "This is a great way for us to expose folks to performance, to art, to theater that might not buy a ticket and go inside to a theater."

Remarkably, it's not just a state-fair deal. Villano said her production company never charges audiences. An Apple Valley High School partnership also allows the organization to pay all 16 cast and crew members. The group attends various Minnesota schools.

"They get a rehearsal stipend and then a per-show payment," Villano said. "They are responsible for loading and unloading the trailer, setting up the set, doing painting, making props, laundering their own costumes."

"The arts are so important and things like this are what bring people to where they are, like starting from the bottom and working your way up," Bostick added.

The company will announce next summer's touring production this October. In the meantime, don't miss the final Kids Day of the summer coming up Monday, Sept. 4.

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