The street where you would normally see thousands of cars passing through on any given day has been transformed into a hyper-interactive four-day exhibition of lively street performances. Yonge Street – between Queen and College – is now the home of the 14th annual Scotiabank BuskerFest.
Moving from its long-time home in the St. Lawrence Market area, this year’s BuskerFest has more than 60 different acts including jugglers, contortionists, musicians, fire eaters and theatrical performers. In addition to being the largest festival of its kind in North America, it’s also the biggest epilepsy awareness event in the world.
The best part of the festival is that there’s truly something for everybody. Whether you’re a fan of abstract pantomime or you just want to see a burly man eat a flaming baton, you’ll find it at this festival. As you walk down the busy street, you’ll encounter a different performer every few yards, so if the subject matter is not something you find interesting – no need to worry, there’s another act just around the corner.
However, here are some things that I personally enjoyed seeing.
The Catwall Acrobats
These talented performers defy gravity using trampolines and a custom-built vertical wall. True to its name, the troupe’s movements are startlingly reminiscent of a bunch of cats climbing up and down a wall. This performance was definitely one of the festival’s best instances of art imitating life. To view their videos and learn a little more about them, check out their Facebook page.
The Fire Show
What’s a street festival without pyrotechnics? The Fire Show took place at Yonge-Dundas Square this past Saturday at 9:30 PM, and combined some of BuskerFest’s most notable flame-themed acts all into one death-defying exhibition. I didn’t see a single person in the crowd who wasn’t mesmerized.
The AMI BuskerAccess Tent
Neither theatre nor art or music, the Access Tent was a location where persons with disabilities were paired with volunteers to help make their festival experience more pleasant. As a firm believer that art and theatre should be easily accessible to all, I thought this gesture spoke volumes about the inclusiveness of this year’s festival.
Turbo Street Funk
Every festival needs great tunes. Turbo Street Funk mixes big band instruments to create an interesting take on retro funk music. Energetic and upbeat, they provided a great soundtrack to the festival. Check out their website for demos of their music.
Wow. How did he do that? Diogo Alvares is a slight-of-hand magician hailing from Brazil who uses cards, keys, and cigarettes to astound the audience and make them doubt the boundaries of physics. I’m usually a very cynical person, but Alvares is one of the best illusionists I’ve seen and would definitely recommend checking out his act.
These were five things that made this year’s BuskerFest truly memorable. But with so many acts in one location, I encourage you to find and your own favourite festival moments.
• Thursday, August 22nd from6:00 PM – 11:00 PM
• Friday, August 23rd from 12:00 PM – 11:00 PM
• Saturday, August 24th from 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM
• Sunday, August 25th from 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM
Note: The performers don’t follow a set schedule, so it’s a good idea to be open and explore the whole area to find something that interests you.
On Yonge St. from College south to Queen with performances in Dundas Square and Trinity Square Park Here are some directions on getting there.
The festival is free of charge, but patrons are encouraged to make a donation to support epilepsy research at one of the entry gates on College or Queen. Performers usually earn their compensation by passing a hat around the crowd during performances.
Photos taken Friday, August 23rd and are courtesy of SevenStock.