Dancer, choreographer and rock climber Amelia Rudolph handed off her fussy 11-week-old son to his father, who designs sets for her shows.

She wanted to talk about Project Bandaloop, her company of aerialists who have performed on the walls of skyscrapers in Italy, Norway and India as well as the holy grail of rock climbing -- the 3,000-foot-high El Capitan rock formation in Yosemite National Park.

"People come to our performances for the wow, and they get that when they see us fly and defy gravity in these built and natural spaces," she said from her home in Northern California. "But they also leave with much more. In India, a father came up to me to say that he came for the thrill but also loved the art of what we did."

It's a sentiment that organizers at St. Paul's Ordway Center hope everyone will feel this weekend at the 11th annual Flint Hills International Children's Festival, which takes place in and around the Ordway.

Project Bandaloop will perform eight times on the Lawson Center, which at 13 stories is on the low-rise side for them. They will rappel down the building to a set height, where they will dance and no doubt cause a few hearts to jump.

"When I was hired, but before I started in 2007, I came to the festival and completely fell in love with it," said Patricia Mitchell, CEO of the Ordway Center. "It captures our values of community engagement, of tapping the art and heart of kids. It's vital, exciting and full of the wonder of what we do. And, most of all, it's accessible to everyone."

Many events free

The festival is highly subsidized, with many free events taking place outdoors in Rice Park, Landmark Plaza, Hamm Plaza and other places near the Ordway. Ticket prices top off at $5.

In addition to Project Bandaloop, the festival roster includes the Oyu Oro Afro-Cuban Dance Ensemble, which honors traditional Cuban, Haitian and West African music and dance; the glow-in-the-dark love story of Corbian the Dinosaur; the Puppet State Theatre of Scotland, which is doing an ecology-themed show, "The Man Who Planted Trees"; highly regarded Canadian folk duo Dala, and an ARTgarden, installed on Hamm Plaza and featuring about 5,000 flowers. A central attraction of this garden exhibit will be a 35-foot pinwheel daisy, made from recycled parts, whose petunias, impatiens and zinnias will be re-used in the planters and parks of St Paul.

"The environmental piece is hugely important to the festival and to us," said Angela Koebler, lead landscaper for the city of St. Paul. She worked with St. Paul's arts and gardening coordinator Mark Granlund on the project. "The most gratifying thing is seeing the kids' faces on the weekend when they come inside and discover all the fun things in the garden."

There have been only a few lovely weekends, weather-wise, this year. The Ordway's Mitchell said that her whole staff is a weather committee, and that they're "praying for cool sunshine."

"We tend toward hyperbole in this business, but this festival is truly one to trumpet from the tops of buildings," she said.

And that means handing it back to Project Bandaloop, whose founder, Rudolph, also is a spiritual seeker.

"I've always been interested in performance as a ritual, a community event," she said. "We've done shows all over, in the Sierras, in Atlanta and Houston, and in all of them, there's an invitation for people to join us in imagination. When you spring off a building or a cliff, you have this sensation of weightlessness. When you lift a partner who's suddenly very light, it's like you're playing in a dream state."