Toronto sure does know how to send off summer in style. As back-to-school time quickly approaches, there is no doubt that it feels like summer is dwindling down. To celebrate this last weekend of summer bliss, Toronto had numerous festivals and activities going on throughout the city. I managed to check out 3 of the larger festivals including BuskerFest, Fan Expo and the CNE (otherwise known as the Canadian National Exhibition for those of you not familiar with Toronto acronyms!).
The first festival of my very busy weekend was BuskerFest. I think this is the 3rd or 4th year I have attended, and it seems to get bigger and better each year. It was actually surprising to learn that this festival has been around for 14 years as I just heard about it not that long ago. This festival is very special to Toronto as it the largest epilepsy awareness event in the world, and the only festival in the world produced by a charity – Epilepsy Toronto. As soon as you enter the festival grounds (which occupied Yonge Street between Queen and College Streets vs. its prior home around St. Lawrence Market), volunteers politely ask you for any amount of change or money you can spare to help support the 40,000 living with epilepsy in our city. We only had a bit of change on us, so we gave what we could and made our way inside (only to notice about 20 minutes later that one of the volunteers had placed a sticker on my arm without my knowing. Sneaky sneaky volunteers).
Upon entering the grounds, we quickly found the festival schedule and mapped out the various acts we wanted to check out (really, I just wanted to see the USA Breakdancers because who doesn’t love people spinning on their heads?). After taking a picture of the schedule (to use for future reference so we didn’t need to keep returning to the big sign — genius I know!), we decided to venture off and check out some of the acts already mid-way through their performances.
The first act we caught was the Twin Tango. I am not really sure how to describe this performance. I saw a large stripper pole which immediately caught my attention and a man climbing up it with a rose in his mouth (wouldn’t you be intrigued by this?). We hung around for a few minutes to watch “Harold” do various flips and turns on the pole trying to impress a girl who sat on a chair and watched him. After reading the description in the handy busker fest newspaper, I learned that this was actually a love story of a man trying to woo the girl into his arms. I guess coming halfway through the act didn’t help put the pieces of that story together.
On our way to the next stage, we passed some fantastic installations and performances such as Marie Antoinette, the CANDYman and Krazy K (stilt walker). No matter where you turned, it seemed like there was something to see. There was some serious sensory overload walking through the streets of downtown Toronto.
As we continued our way north along Yonge Street, we managed to make it Yonge-Dundas Square where we got to hear some live music and watch some really fantastic balloon twisters in action. There was a quite crowd as the two twisters whipped up some impressive crowns for various kids in the audience. I have no idea why I am always impressed with clowns and people that can manipulate balloons this way. Maybe because I can barely blow up a balloon, let alone twist it into some sort of random animal or head-piece. Sigh. If only I could. Oh the possibilities.
As we continued to kill some time before heading back down to check out the USA Breakdancers, we stumbled upon The Flying Dutchmen – a pair of crazy uni-cyclists/jugglers who are dubbed “The Rolling Stones of street performers”. We caught the end of their show where they juggled flaming torches at one another while riding the unicycles. I think I was more distracted by their costumes than the flames though (maybe that was part of the trick?). What I found pretty cool about watching a lot of these buskers is that many of them are from abroad and are brought into town for this festival. This was very noticeable when you heard the Australian accents of the performers in Natural Wings as they did their aerial routine at the festival.
The big finale of the night was the USA Breakdancers. I didn’t really know what to expect, but based on the quality of the performances I had witnessed that evening, I knew I was going to be in for a treat. The USA Breakdancers were a 3-man team that consisted of two breakers and an MC (also known as Julio “Klown” Santiago). The show combined some great breakdancing skills, but also had some humour that was provided by Julio. Probably the most entertaining part of the show though was when they asked men from the crowd to come up on the stage and have a dance-off. Something about watching middle aged men get their groove on to some hip-hop beats was very entertaining. The white-man overbite always cracks me up. In all honesty though, the group put on an amazing show and had some great tricks up their sleeves. It was a perfect way to end the evening, and definitely has me excited to see the performance line up for next year’s festivities.