VIENNA -- Cautionary lessons of youth teach children not to play with fire, but a Carbondale native is encouraging people to do just that -- under the right conditions and proper supervision, of course.

Grant Harris, president of Northern Lights Entertainment, is bringing a new event to the region in the form of the Fire and Flow Arts Retreat from June 20-22 on the shores of Tall Tree Lake.

The multi-faceted festival is both education and entertaining, as various classes will be offered during the day and music acts take the stage at night. Professional fire-spinning instructors will be on hand to teach the art of spinning, breathing and eating fire. Other classes will be available, as well, including yoga.

Guests at the festival will also have the opportunity to test and push themselves physically and mentally by participating in activities like walking across fire and maneuvering a tight-rope.

“We want to show that you really do have the power to do whatever you set your mind to,” said Harris, who has practiced fire-spinning for about 10 years.

Through his experiences, including five years in the professional business of presenting fire-spinning shows and classes, Harris has connected with fire artists from California to North Carolina and places as far as Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. These individuals will be working the retreat, sharing their knowledge and teaching Southern Illinoisans new skills.

At night, bands from Carbondale and St. Louis, as well as disc jockeys from the Indianapolis area, will provide music entertainment. There will also be a fire circle, where people can put to test what they learned earlier in the day under proper supervision.

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“We really want to bring a change and a new type of event to Southern Illinois,” Harris said. “This is something no one down there has ever seen.”

The retreat is open to everyone ages 6 and older. Up to two children, ages 6 to 14, will be admitted free with each paying adult. Adult admission is $75 in advance at www.soillflow.com or $85 at the gate and includes primitive camping for the weekend. Gates open at 7 a.m. June 20 and close at 7 p.m. June 22. No alcohol will be sold or distributed on site in an attempt to keep the event as family-friendly as possible.

Harris said he feels outdoor festivals in Southern Illinois have gotten a poor reputation from past events, such as the annual Gathering of the Juggalos in Hardin County, and he wants to take steps toward restoring a positive image with a family-focused retreat style event.

“Honestly, this isn’t a moneymaker for me,” he said. “I just want to bring something back to the community where I grew up that gives kids something different to do.”

This year’s festival is a beta test of sorts and will determine what course things take in the future. Harris said he’d like to see the event become annual, but that requires the support of the local community.

Discovering fire spinning a decade ago changed Harris’ life, and he hopes others will have the same experiences.

“It really helped bring me to a happy place in life,” he said.

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