ST. CATHARINES – The first Niagara Buskerfest drew large crowds Saturday for the weekendlong event that had St. Catharines closed on James and King streets in the downtown core.
Three outdoor stages had families gathered around to take in the amazing variety of talent as well as lots of laughs with the running commentaries that make up the show.
Street eats, lots of local vendors displaying their wares and a Better Living Exhibit had every angle covered in the entertainment department.
For adults Stella’s Dining Lounge and Gord’s Place even featured Busker Cabarets.
One of the performers and entertainment coordinators, who goes by his stage handle “Truly Odd,” chatted about the talent line-up after his riveting performance on a unicycle with juggling balls and knives.
“The pool of talent we got is global. Some from Australia, the U.S. and Europe. There are eight acts here…everything from sword swallowing to juggling to rope walking to hand balancing. So really a wide range of performers“
Odd, who once was employed as a paramedic but now is a busker full time, says it takes many years to get to this level of talent.
“My finale alone took me 10 years to learn. “
But he says it’s really about the passion behind the craft. He talks about his first dabbling into the field.
“I think I grew up watching too many Looney Tunes actually. I saw Mr. Dress Up do juice can stilts so then I wanted to do it with three cans , then four, then it got too rickety and so I made wood ones and that’s how it started.”
From there he said it was a progression over time and he did lots of shows before he was at the elite level he is at now. He jokes “I was doing shows before I was able to juggle knives blindfolded on the unicycle!”
But he says that is part of the plight of the busker with most of them always pushing the boundaries of their abilities and trying to change up their shows.
Besides taking in some awesome live local entertainment, Odd stresses the importance of folks getting off their couch and checking it out.
“I think it’s more important than ever because I hesitate to say it but people’s lives are becoming dominated by computers and detached from what is real. You come out here and you are surrounded by people that are real. You can actually see them and talk to them. I hear kids say all the time: I saw that on YouTube. Well, YouTube is not real.”
The opportunity for people to take in the buskers almost eluded them in St. Catharines this year when Lyndesfarne Theatre the original organizers of the St. Catharines Buskerfest moved to Niagara Falls. Noting an opportunity however, businessman William Montgomery stepped in, came to an agreement with the city and the rest as they say is history.
Niagara Buskerfest continues until Sunday August 18 and is free admission. For full details go to their website www.niagarabuskerfest.ca