10 Amazing Canadian Festivals to Add to Your Summer Travel AgendaArticle by: Marcus Dowling|@marcuskdowling
Wed January 13, 2016 | 00:00 AM
In-the-know American festies who love to travel abroad are likely aware that Canada is a hotbed of incredible festival experiences. An added bit of awesomeness: many of the country's festivals are non-profit events committed to sustainability. Supported by FAME Canada, a national industry coalition, these festivals are economic drivers and culturally significant events – something we wish all countries had.
Some of this vast country's more well-known festivals such as the Toronto International Film Festival, Just for Laughs Festival, Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, Quebec Winter Carnival, and the Calgary Stampede might first spring to mind, but those simply scratch the surface of Canada's top-notch music and cultural festival offerings. Below you'll find 10 more lesser-known Canadian festivals that are more than worth traveling across the border to experience this summer.
Folklorama, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, July 31-August 13, 2016
Midsummer’s Folklorama occurs in Western Canada, and has been determined by the International Council of Organizations of Folklore Festivals and Folk Arts to be the largest and longest-running multicultural festival of its kind in the world. Nearing fifty years of existence, global cultures are celebrated here as 40 volunteer-run pavilions located throughout Winnipeg are set up over a two-week period. Entertainment, cultural displays and authentic ethnic cuisine are intrinsic to the experience, which has been referred to by festival organizers as aiding in “celebrating diversity and promoting cultural understanding.”
RBC Ottawa Bluesfest, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, July 7-17, 2016
Just over two decades old is the RBC Ottawa Bluesfest, an event called “the Canadian version of Coachella” and declared by Billboard Magazine to be one of the top ten music festivals in the world. 300,000-plus attendees now routinely attend the ten-day event that proudly features a half-Canadian and half-international lineup, and is akin to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in its diverse range of performers. Acts from EDM stalwarts like Zedd and Skrillex, rap stars Wu-Tang Clan and Snoop Dogg to rock/blues legends like George Thorogood and Lady Antebellum have played the event. For 10 days the Lebreton Flats park hosts the event which also has a volunteer staff of 3,500 people and has an estimated $40 million economic impact on the region.
The New France Festival, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, August 3-7, 2016
From 1534-1760, North America’s New France colony occupied what is now known as Quebec City, Quebec. Thus, an annual festival celebrating the historical heritage of the land is one of the summer's most anticipated events. Period-era costumes abound and a program of happenings at various locales – including parades and celebrations of “New French” cuisine, manufacturing, sporting activities and more – occur over five raucous days. For 20 solid years, 200,000-plus people come together to enjoyed these exciting proceedings that honor the past, present and future of a key piece of Quebec’s history.
Regina Folk Festival, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, August 5-7, 2016
Since 1969, the Regina Folk Festival has existed to “contribute culturally and economically to the city of Regina and the province of Saskatchewan.” The festival has excelled in setting a worldwide standard for top-notch presentation of both Canadian and international folk sounds. From top Canadian acts like Blue Rodeo to globally renowned acts like The Blind Boys of Alabama and acts of varying levels of renown and different locations in-between, it’s a truly comprehensive event. With upwards of 20,000 attendees yearly and growing, and nearing its 50th anniversary, the Regina Folk Festival continues to be relevant and exciting.
Redpath Waterfront Festival, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, July1-3, 2016
Toronto’s Redpath Waterfront Festival is an annual summer event that promotes Toronto as a top waterfront destination. On-land and on-water entertainment includes live music and dance, a Waterfront Artisan Market and the Ultimutts Stunt Dog Show. Every three years the RWF welcomes the tall ships and in 2016 the festival will host the Spanish vessel El Galeon and Draken Harald Hårfagre, an authentic viking ship. Also joining the RWF this summer will be the Royal Canadian Navy!
Fierté Montréal Pride, Montréal, Quebec, Canada, August 8-14, 2016
Nearly a half-million revelers descend upon the ninth largest city in North America for a week of events celebrating the history and success in the struggle for equal rights of LGBTQ citizens both in the province and worldwide. This event is the largest LGBTQ event in the Francophonic world, and has set a groundbreaking standard for festivals worldwide. Seven full days (and nights) of events are scheduled including civic meetings, parties, marches, parades, fashion shows and a full slate of other activities celebrating LGBTQ culture. Fierté Montréal Pride is now just over a decade old and promises to increase its push for diversity in over 115-plus events.
Vancouver International Jazz Festival, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, June 2016
Since 1986, the Coastal Jazz and Blues Society has existed to celebrate Vancouver as a focal location for the global spread of jazz and blues music and culture. Thus, when over 1800 artists perform in 300 concerts in over 30 venues every June the Vancouver International Jazz Festival excels at being an ultimate presentation of both music and location. Nearly a half-million people yearly take in performances from the likes of Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis, Bobby McFerrin, Tito Puente, and numerous others at what is easily one of the world’s best regarded events in both the jazz and blues genres.
Festival d’été de Quebec, Quebec City, Canada, July 7-17, 2016
Promising 300 musical events on 10 stages in 11 days is the audacious goal of July’s Festival d’été de Quebec, an annual event occurring in Quebec’s capital. One million attendees come to the historic district of Quebec City to take in acts as diverse as Hall of Fame legends like the Rolling Stones and Stevie Wonder, modern pop titans like Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars, metal icons Iron Maiden and Metallica, and numerous others. The festival’s major highlight is the 80,000 capacity Bell Stage. It’s located on the historic Plains of Abraham battlefield, and is noted for being North America’s largest self-supported stage. Promising “music for everyone” and “more bang for your buck,” the festival is nearing a half-century of existence and shows no signs of slowing down.
Montréal Complètement Cirque, Montréal, Quebec, Canada, July 7-17, 2016
In English, the name Montréal Complètement Cirque translates as “Montréal Circus Completely.” The seven-year-old event describes itself as the “first international festival of circus arts” with the goal of “positioning [Montréal] as a cultural metropolis and capital of circus arts.” A plethora of global circus acts perform in a mix of indoor and outdoor venues throughout the city in what has become one of circus culture’s most beloved locales. From tightrope walkers to human cannonball performers, aerial ballerinas, clowns and more, if you're looking for a fanciful way to spend ten days, this event is it.
International Balloon Festival, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Canada, August 13-21, 2016
For over three decades, this fest has excelled at creating an internationally renowned festival that mixes hot air balloons, various entertainment events, and top-tier tourist offerings into a unique set of activities. Constant reinvention is also an aim, and with 500,000-plus attendees being treated to a flamboyant schedule that has included pop music acts like Owl City, Taio Cruz, and Stéphane Rousseau, plus ten hot-air balloon flights and 125 hot-air balloons dotting the skyline, the festival’s goal of “mesmerizing the inner child in all of us, at one time and in one place” has unquestionably been achieved.
Check out these other FAME Canada member events for future festival adventures:
Luminato Festival, Montréal en Lumière, Festival Western St-Tite, Stratford Festival, Les FrancoFolies de Montréal, Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival, Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival, Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival, and Winnipeg Folk Festival.