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Ottawa International Buskerfest Celebrating 30 years!

Ottawa International Buskerfest is celebrating 30 years! We sat down with a few of the performers to ask them what Buskerfest means to them and share some of their stories from Buskerfest’s 30 year history. Here is what they had to say!

Mat Ricardo What does Ottawa Buskerfest turning 30 mean to you?

It's absolutely one of my favourite fests in the world. The last few years haven't always been the easiest for live performers (and festival organiszrs), so it's so great to see it not just still here, but absolutely thriving!

What do you think that says about the festival?

That people love it! And when I say people, I mean both the audiences and the performers. I get the feeling we all look forward to it in the same way. It's got a fantastic atmosphere, it's organized by people who understand the nuances of street performing - so it all just works - and it's in a wonderful city with wonderful people. It's truly a pleasure to perform at.

What are you looking forward to when you return to Ottawa Buskerfest this year?

The easy answer here, is everything! But thats kinda the point - from a performers perspective, you go into most festivals with a mental checklist of things to make sure are in place, so that your shows work - but with Ottawa there's just not that anxiety. I've never played it and not had a really great time, so that frees me up to just look forward to it, and do the best shows I can.

What sets Ottawa Buskerfest apart from other festivals that you perform at ?

This might seem like an odd detail - but genuinely, I think that the fact that all the shows happen along one street really helps create that lovely vibe. I'm a big fan of busking festivals being contained in one street - when they get too spread out, the atmosphere dissipates, but for that one weekend, sparks street becomes a theatre - you can go in one end and walk down it, and you know you're going to see some epic stuff. I really like that.

The Checkerboard Guy: David Aiken

What does Ottawa Buskerfest turning 30 mean to you?

I’m thrilled to be returning to Ottawa for the 30th Anniversary of the Festival. I’ve had some of the best shows of my life in Ottawa and my very first shows as a street performing happened on Sparks Street in 1982, so I feel very connected to the event, the venue and the audiences I get to perform for. I’ve gone from being one of the youngest street performers on Sparks Street to one of the oldest an am thrilled that kids I performed for thirty plus years ago are now bringing their kids to see me. What an absolute privilege to be able to turn laughter into a living for over four decades!

What do you think that says about the festival?

That the festival is celebrating it’s thirtieth anniversary says to me that the organizers understand how to craft an incredible line-up of entertainment that’s turned this event into one of the MUST-SEE Festivals of the Summer. It’s obvious from the huge crowds that come down to see the shows and support the event that the organizers have struck upon a winning formula that brings laughter, fun and wows to an audience who can’t get enough of it!

What are you looking forward to when you return to Ottawa Buskerfest this year?

(I’m looking forward to hanging out with Brian on July 28th and celebrating my 55th birthday with a beer tour!)

I’m looking forward to being a part of an incredible line-up of performers, performing for some of the best audiences in the world and reconnecting with so many friendly faces that come out to watch the shows!

What sets Ottawa Buskerfest apart from other festivals that you perform at?

I’m a firm believer that the very first audiences you perform for (location) shape who you are as a performer for the rest of your career. People who learn how to perform at Covent Garden in London have a style. Performers from Pier 39 in San Francisco have a certain style. That my performance style was informed by audiences in Ottawa means that every time I return to Ottawa things just seem to click and it feels like the audiences can almost finish my sentences for me, and often do. What fun!

What’s the best moment you’ve ever had at the Ottawa Busker’s Festival?

I think my fondest memory from the Ottawa Busker’s Festival was going head to head with a fireworks display that went off at Parliament Hill when I was performing with Jean-Michel Paré as half of the Bang-Bang Boys and actually holding the crowd. Remarkably a photographer was there to capture the magic an I took those images and turned them into a Canvas that reminds me of that incredible show -

Looking forward to coming back and making more great memories and having so many huge laughs!

Rusty: Zap Circus

What does Ottawa Buskerfest turning 30 mean to you?

The age of this festival represents the value that arts has to Ottawa. By providing access to high quality international artists it allows audiences to experience culture, inspiration and create community.

What do you think that says about the festival?

This age of festival tells me that there have been many dedicated teams of people working hard to keep this important cultural event occurring. Huge congratulations to all of them, the hosts, venues, sponsors and organization! Everytime we have played it has been better than the last. Equally it has been brilliantly supported by the residents of Ottawa and surrounds that attend this experience each year.

What are you looking forward to when you return to Ottawa Buskerfest this year?

Reconnecting audiences through laughter, awe inspiring feats and impossible stunts. This is our first international tour since 2019 and we look forward to creating high octane family fun experiences that everyone can enjoy.

What sets Ottawa Buskerfest apart from other festivals that you perform at?

The Ottawa community are brilliant and always bring such a fun playful energy to the shows! We love turning unusual locations into outdoor theatres, to take a strip of walkway and create the magic of a performance, taking the audience on an adventure that they help bring to life. As the last couple of years have shown, you can't do a show without an audience!

Brian Wilson: Ottawa International Buskerfest Producer

I'm delighted to have been working on bringing some of the top street performers from around the world for our crowds to catch live on Sparks Street.

Thirty years ago, I was lucky enough to get my start performing at the Ottawa Busker festival. The cobblestones and the laughter feel like home to me. With support from the Sparks Street BIA, a dedicated board of volunteers, and support from grants and other businesses allow us to deliver four days of epic, affordable fun for the whole family.

For the 30th edition of Ottawa Buskerfest, we've brought back some festival favorite performers from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and from across Canada. Saturday night join us for the hilarious Buskers and Burlesque ticketed event at the Marriot hotel, or an epic group Fire show Sunday night. Learn how to juggle, or work on your balance skills at the onsite Circus School, and don't miss one last big show at the Grand Finale show on Monday. I hope that you can join us for some laughs and some epic shows on Sparks Street for the 30th edition of the Ottawa Busker Festival.

A huge thank you to the performers for taking the time to share their stories with us. We cannot wait to have you back on Sparks Street!

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