The 2023 Skeleton Park Arts Festival, the city’s favourite Summer Solstice celebration, is back this year from June 21 to 25.

Now in its 18th year, the annual non-profit festival in McBurney Park and the Skeleton Park neighbourhood will once again feature local and world-class arts and entertainment programming for the whole family, free of charge.

This year’s festival includes a diverse range of performers, including Grammy/Latin Grammy and Juno award-winning singer-songwriter Alex Cuba, The Lemon Bucket Orkestra, Kasador, Kyoko Ogoda, Bangerz Brass, Emilie Steele & The Deal, Luella, The Codas, Ombiigizi, Ariko, Princess Towers and more.

Programming kicks off on Wednesday evening, June 21 with renowned Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, writer and artist Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, widely recognized as one of the “most compelling Indigenous voices of her generation.”

Simpson will present an evening of film, song and story at The Screening Room beginning at 6:30pm. The free event of culture, conversation and critique is presented by the festival, in partnership with The Screening Room, Kingston WritersFest and the Department of English at Queen’s University.

“It's an honour to open the festival on National Indigenous People's Day with Leanne Betasamosake Simpson,” says SPAF’s artistic director, Greg Tilson.

“SPAF is also honoured to partner with the Integrated Care Hub (ICH) for a Community Drumming Circle on Thursday, June 22, that will build community through the arts at that essential health, housing and social service organization.”

Friday evening will feature dance performances by Movement Market at the Broom Factory, and live performances in McBurney Park take place all day Saturday and Sunday.

On the weekend, McBurney Park will also host the festival’s artisan fair featuring more than 30 local artisans, as well as local food vendors and plenty of family-friendly hands-on arts activities.

As usual, the festival will be working towards maximal waste diversion during its events. What started as a pet project by students from Calvin Park Public School, who first took on the challenge of minimizing festival waste in 2006, the effort has evolved into the most successful waste diversion event in town, only creating one bag of garbage despite thousands of annual attendees.

“SPAF is helping to provide inspiration for other organizers to follow suit in reducing waste and coordinating more environmentally sustainable events,” says Tilson.

Back by popular demand this year is the Porch Jazz Parade, a fun, musical romp through streets in the Skeleton Park neighbourhood, with pit stops for half-hour concerts on porches along the way.

The parade was postponed in 2022 as the festival found its legs in the community once again, post-COVID-19 pandemic, but this year’s parade band, Bangerz Brass, will revive the tradition starting at 11:30am on Sunday at 154 Ordnance Street, ending up at 58 Alma Street at 12:15pm.

“Folks love it because it literally takes live music right to your doorstep,” says Tilson. “That parade is such a fun way to ‘take back the streets.’ The neighbourhood really owns this annual event.”

New this year, the festival is partnering with the City of Kingston’s Depart of Arts and Cultural Services for a Crosswalk Murals Pilot Project that will engage local artists including Dakota Ward, Floriana Ehninger-Cuervo, Jaylene Cardinal, Marney McDiarmid and Vince Perez to work with neighbourhood residents to design and paint a series of crosswalk murals.

“These will transform parts of the Skeleton Park neighbourhood streets into works of art,” Tilson said.

As part of the pilot project, SPAF volunteers will be leading the creation and painting of three murals at the following intersections:
Redan and Balaclava Streets
Patrick and Balaclava Streets
Alma and Ordnance Streets
The Skeleton Park Arts Festival is not only a free, multi-disciplinary arts experience that happens every year in and around the Skeleton Park on the summer solstice weekend. It’s also a community organization that offers pop-up events around the neighbourhood all year round, and community news in the form of its hyper-local quarterly publication, The Skeleton Press.

The most recent issue of that publication is now in mailboxes and at businesses around the Skeleton Park neighbourhood, and features a complete schedule of this year's festival events.

“It’s the most exciting grassroots community event in town,” says Tilson. “We’re looking forward to sharing this year’s event with the community, and to continuing to foster the arts in our city and neighbourhood.”

The festival is still seeking volunteers. For more information, visit web link. Posted: May 16, 2023
In this Article Artist(s) Alex Cuba, Lemon Bucket Orkestra, Kasador, Princess Towers, Kyoko Ogoda Resource(s) The Screening Room, Skeleton Park Arts Festival