By MAGGIE M, Editor, Wedgee-in-Chief, theWedge.LIVE
I have never attended an event requiring a change of clothes within an hour of arrival. This Saturday in late July, I suspect was the hottest day on record for some time in Perth.
So I performed a private Houdini act in the front seat of my car, partially concealed by the sun reflectors against my windshield. I reappeared dry and refreshed to invest more time covering one of the “Top 100 Festivals in Ontario.”
46 degrees on the humidex did not stop the public from showing up at Perth’s ‘big one,’ the Stewart Park Festival. It was a weekend few of us will forget. Visitors seemed oblivious to an additional threat.
Staff kept a close eye on radar reports watching the movement of thunderstorms encircling the town. Evidently, they spared Perth from their wrath. This was a minor miracle.
“I am amazed at the resilience of people to have come up in this temperature,” Kari Clarke, head of Perth BIA, gushed while sipping lemonade backstage.
Meanwhile, a volunteer named Marcel traveled the grounds spritzing visitors with cool water–on consent. It was welcome relief–physical and comical–and too, a lifter of spirits for volunteers and staff.
The Little Tay River bordering the main stage kept many visitors cool, some immersed up to their necks. That’s how hot it was.
All of downtown Perth was on the move: pedestrians, vehicles, parking guides, cross-walk guards and 120 volunteers. Up to 20,000 traveled through Perth over three days in a town of 5,930 residents.
I arrived just in time to experience acclaimed blues artist, three-times Juno Nominee, Suzie Vinnick, on the main stage. Her rich voice and skilled guitar works was something to witness. She engaged the audience beautifully, even summoning the chocolate addicts in the audience.
The crowd stretched far beyond our lens. The main stage is the main event, but the Festival reaches east to the Crystal Palace and west to the far reaches of the park, south on the other side of Mill St., and north, to the Studio Theatre on Colbourne St.
Artistic Director, James Keelaghan, booked an impressive line-up of artists to perform on four stages : Youth Showcase, Aleksi Campagne, Red Fox, Dave Gunning, The Small Glories, Maz, The Academy For Musical Theatre, Jeremy Fisher Jr. and Jeremy Fisher, El Coyote, Connie Kaldor, Suzie Vinnick, Andy Irvine, Kelly Prescott, Shakura S’Aida, Omnes Arts Circle Dance Show, Terry Tufts, Sussex, Magoo and Duck Race, Shari Ulrich, Elage Diouf, Keith Glass, Tritones, Declan Perkins, Doug Barr, Anders Drerup, Joe Grass, Wade Foster, Shawn McCullough, Emily Fisk, Zack Teal, Reynald Lafleur, Jennifer Noxon, Isabella Hoops and Burnside Sisters. Magoo entertained the children magnificently.
I meandered to the second largest stage also in the park to enjoy Maz, a Montreal-based group that makes you jig at the molecular level with the sounds of Quebec. Half the audience danced. Keyboard, banjo, fiddle, double bass, vocals, foot tapping and electro beats blend into a rousing performance. Is Maz short for aMazing ? Because they were. Maz is in fact an excerpt from Marc Maziade, founder of the musical group.
“C’etait incroyable!,” I kept repeating to the performers backstage. If only they would have played an encore. This is a very bookable group.
The Stewart Park Festival has grown in its 28 years with many attractions beyond music on four stages. It also features workshops, an impressive Artisan Market, food vendors, a pancake breakfast, the Yak Duck Race and a kids’ area.
The Artisan Market was packed with eager buyers. I have rarely witnessed so many high-quality artisanal vendors in one festival : jewelry, hats, botanicals, apparel, mobiles, home decor, condiments and more jewelry.
It’s Lemonade Time. Indeed, it was. And this lemonade stand shaped like its progenitor is a mainstay, a cheerful presence at the festival. Fresh-squeezed lemonade is hard to top at 46 painful degrees. Yet, there was an abundance of food choices from eleven vendors.
I partook of the pulled pork from Wildfire BBQ and Smokehouse backstage. Can you say, “extraordinary”?
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️I give this event a full five stars. Stewart Park Festival is a well-oiled machine that delights all your senses over three days.
Perth is renown for its beauty. It is one of the most sought locations for weddings, Stewart Park as its shining glory. It’s also a world-class shopping and dining haven standing on its own drawing visitors from everywhere.