CHICAGO — Chicago’s International Puppet Theater Festival is now in full swing, drawing in thousands of puppetry fans each year.

The founder, Blair Thomas, said the event happens every other year and is now in its fifth year.

Thomas said Chicago has a long history with puppets.

“The word puppeteer was coined here in Chicago,” he said.

In fact, those puppeteers draw about 14,000 people to theaters around the city, over a dozen consecutive days, with more than 100 performances happening across the city.

But when you think of puppets, you might think the events are for children. But that’s not the case at all.

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“A common association with our festival is mostly for adult audiences,” Thomas said. “We have a production about Fred Douglas and the fact that he was the most photographed person of the 19th century. He was using his image to call attention to experiences of the African Americans before the abolition of slavery.

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It starts today, but there’s so much more happening, including a production of Hamlet all the way from South Africa, one of 10 counties represented.

“It’s a largely Black case of artists using these puppets they hold in their hands, they are on stage with the actors, the puppets,” Thomas said.

There are also events specifically for the kids with a focus on fun for the whole family.

“All the shows, even for adults, are fun,” Thomas said. “If you’re making a puppet show and it’s not fun, you are doing something wrong.”