Festival celebrates ‘music, art and life’
50,000 expected to attend Westboro attractions, ranging from concerts to art shows
With its huge attendance, estimated this year to hit 50,000, diverse attractions and big-name draws, Westfest isn’t your average neighbourhood festival.
Billed as a celebration of “music, art, and life,” Westfest is well-known for its wide range of offerings and its affordability — every concert and performance is free.
This year’s big headliner is folkie (and Ottawa native) Kathleen Edwards, who performed last night. Other Westfest performers include Toronto singer-songwriter Jason Collett, and country-punk band Fiftymen, who close the festival tomorrow night.
Westfest, which began in 2004, also features literary readings, spoken word performances, theatre, dancers and art shows. Its extensive children’s area has made it a popular family destination. Even dedicated shopaholics can get their fix with many of Westboro’s chic boutiques holding sidewalk sales.
Yesterday afternoon, thousands strolled down Richmond Road, which is closed to traffic from McRae Avenue to Golden Avenue during the festival.
Warm weather made this year’s turnout better, says George MacGarvey, a volunteer with the Highland Park Wesleyan Church, who was handing out bottles of water. He explained how they had already handed out 1,200 bottles this year — double the amount from the year before.
The high temperature was probably a good thing for Michelle Palmer, assistant manager of Miss Tiggy Winkles, who was manning the dunk tank to raise money for CHEO. Clad in a wetsuit, Ms. Palmer had landed in the water twice so far. “I don’t know if I’m going to make it to the concert yet,” she said. “It depends on how cold I get!”
Ottawa artist Kaye Wong was enthusiastic about showing her work at Westfest for the first time. The Ottawa School of Art graduate paints fish, both “anatomically correct and abstract” and sold several of her paintings during her exhibit. Though not based in Westboro, she said Westfest “has been really great for Ottawa artists.”
Changes Hair Studio owner Lori Boyachuk was one of the area businesspeople who got into the spirit. She and her staff did hair and makeup for several students from the Ontario School of Speech and Drama, who put on an eye-catching “live mannequin” show in front of her salon.
“I wanted to do something different. I hadn’t seen anything like this before. Last year, I didn’t really get involved with Westfest since we were a new business then,” she said.
Many Westfest attendees were content to kick back and relax before the sun went down and the concerts really got started.
Westboro resident Anne Chornenky brought her grandchildren, who took an ice-cream break after watching the Junkyard Symphony and the live reptile show.
“My favourite part was getting my face painted,” said her granddaughter, Sarah, between tastes. “It’s my first time here. It’s really fun and I wish we could come back next year.”