"Why puppets?"

New York State Puppet Festival organizer Josh Rice considers the question.

“Puppets can do things that human actors can't,” he says, adding with a laugh. “One: they can't complain--which is awesome.”

Once you look into it, you realize: what most of us know about the art of puppetry could probably be, well, stuffed into a sock.

“I have something to show you,” I tell Josh. Reaching into my purse I produced a bit of fabric, yellow yarn dangling from one end.

"I made my own sock puppet," I explain, pulling the sock over my hand, instantly animating what amounts to a sad self-portrait in sock form.

Unsure what to make of it at first, Josh eventually grins graciously. "It's ridiculous and wonderful," he says.

But it's nothing compared to what you will see if you find your way to the Wyoming County Village of Perry over the next couple of weeks. Josh, who is a Perry native, has traveled the world as a puppeteer, designer and builder. He recently returned to his hometown and has dreams of making it an arts destination. His latest effort is the New York State Puppet Festival, the very first festival of its kind in the state.

"I think a big part of doing this festival was educating people as to what puppetry can be,” he explains. ”It's not just a children's art form and Jim Henson was an amazing and incredible artist and I love The Muppets as well, but really there is this 3,000 year old art form that has been used in religious ceremonies and rituals and theater productions all across the world and a lot of it is for adults.”

Helping to open people's eyes will be the documentary "Puppet," which opens the festival.

Its subject, Dan Hurlin, has devoted his career to building characters and entire worlds.
His work is featured in the festival's gallery show.

"This looks like a strange new world when, in fact, there's actually a long tradition of it that's just sort of hidden from Americans," Hurlin says. "It's completely understandable that all they know of puppets is Kermit and Miss Piggy. It's completely understandable, but it's not the whole story."

For 10 days, Perry will host nationally and Internationally known artists. To put it plainly, they are kind of a big deal.

"They're a huge deal,” Josh says. “In the Puppet world, these are huge deal people and a lot of people don't know who they are so I'm excited to introduce them to these people."

The fascinating art form that combines sketching and painting, sculpture, music and even dance is just waiting to be discovered at the New York State Puppet Festival. Bring your imagination. They'll do the rest.

Click here for all the details on the New York State Puppet Festival.