Skeleton Park Arts Festival to showcase neighbourhood pride and national talent


Photo by Jay Middaugh

The Skeleton Park Arts Festival is back for another year and seems to be celebrating a lot of blasts from the past.

“The thing that people seem to be talking about the most is Fred Penner,” says one of the festival’s founders, Greg Tilson. “Which was a little bit of a surprise – I mean the guy’s been around since the 60s.”

He says he thinks the reason behind it is because middle-aged folks like himself, who now have young kids, are excited to get nostalgic while bringing their children to see someone from their own childhood.

National music icon Sarah Harmer will be another headliner at the event. Tilson says she was actually their first ever sponsor for the festival and used to live in the same area.

"The Skeleton Park neighbourhood is incredibly vibrant and just filled with artists,” Tilson says.

This year also aims to build relationships with the indigenous community, Tilson says. The festival will open with a gallery reception for artist Onagottay at 3 p.m. on Wednesday at The Elm Café (303 Montreal St.). Within the festival there will also be workshops and screenings of short films by the Kingston Indigenous Language Nest and a Metis fiddler quartet performance.

Tilson says goal of the festival to showcase the many forms of art and culture, as well as to increase participation in the arts.

"We aim for diversity and maybe a little bit of the unexpected,” he says.

The Skeleton Park Arts Festival first bloomed out of what used to be an annual summer solstice event.

"We decided the time was right to ramp it up into a full-on festival and so that’s kind of how it all began,” Tilson says.

Twelve years later, the festival is striving. This year it will take place from June 21 to 25. The performers and activities will include things such as stilt walkers, documentary screenings, yoga, story reading and square dancing to name a few. The entire event is free to the public.

Tilson says he is probably most looking forward to some of the family games to take place at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

“I’ve got a three-year-old and we really like the thing that’s probably the oldest component of the festival – the solstice games. So that’s like a lot of traditional, you know, three-legged races and tug of wars and stuff like that… Chances are you’ll see me and my son George hanging out in that area."

A friend of Tilson’s and a two-time Juno award winner, Old Man Luedecke, will be another one of the musical performers. He is a folk singer/songwriter coming all the way from Nova Scotia to close out the festival.

"I think that art is the way that we talk to each other about the thing that we’re going through, which is life in all of it’s different ways. And the sort of stuff we create out of that is how we relate to one another and I just feel like understanding certain things is what makes life worth living," Luedecke says.

For a full list of the day's events see the schedule here: http://skeletonparkartsfest.ca

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