Article and photography by Rachel Strouble and Nandini Mehta
Whether you are a fan of jazz or not, the Beaches Jazz Festival’s StreetFest had something for everyone! The weekend was full of events, activities, food, and upbeat music. It was a perfect summer outing for all ages.
This year the highly-anticipated Beaches Jazz Festival took place from July 2nd to 24th with an accompanying street festival from the 21st to the 23rd. The StreetFest took place on Queen Street East in the charming Beaches neighborhood. The event was open to the public and free to attend.
The street was lined with various styles of jazz performances, food trucks, lemonade stands (big and small), and people selling local art and lovely jewelry. There were also many people enjoying their meals on the fairy light-lined patios of quaint restaurants.
Attendees could try their hand at an open mic, and show off their jazz skills at the Richmond Hill Arts Council tent. If they wanted to remember their night they could buy some Beaches Jazz Festival merch (there was even a chance of bumping into John Tory, who was seen checking out the merchandise available and posing for pictures!).
It was a very family-friendly event. Kids were seen dancing to the performances, getting balloon animals made, and playing with bubbles.
Even though the street was filled with crowds of people, it was easy to get through and watch the performers or visit the various vendors. In total, it took about an hour and a half to see and hear everything we were interested in. Something next year’s guests should keep in mind is that there is a lot of walking involved in getting to the festival (due to street closures) and at the festival itself. But if you wear the right shoes, you’ll be certain to get your steps in!
Every type of jazz you could think of was represented at the fest. Dixieland, Gypsy Jazz, Afro-Cuban, Vocal, Big Band, and even a drum circle! A large group of drummers and instrumentalists called the Samba Squad lead the charge, and their rhythms filled the air as you entered the festival and set an upbeat mood.
A young band of students lit up the middle of the festival with upbeat, swing hits. Later on, and somehow even more upbeat, was a guitar player that shocked and won over the audience by shredding a solo with his face. It was completely unexpected and a high point of the evening.
A group of steel pan players soon followed, giving a calmer moment of respite from the upbeat, exciting energies. Although not technically part of the show, a couple visited each band and performed swing dances in front of the crowd.
For the hungry, an arsenal of food trucks and local restaurants lined the street, serving up classic fried festival food, like Beavertails and Tiny Tom Donuts.
One of the biggest highlights of the festival was the location. Nestled in a picturesque, beachside, suburbanite paradise, the pastel houses dotting the streets were the perfect backdrop for a lively celebration of music, food and family fun. This fest showcased the incredible talent, diversity and multiculturalism of the Toronto jazz community.
All in all, it was a wonderful experience, and a lovely way to spend the evening. Be sure to attend next year, when they return for their 35th anniversary!