Hamilton: SuperCrawl is Super Fun


Hamilton’s SuperCrawl has evolved over the past 10 years into one of Canada’s biggest and best music/street festivals.  It is a great success story. 

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Grass Roots

It all started when a group of fledgling art galleries along James Street North (aka Little Portugal) decided to host an Art Crawl the second Friday of every month. This was not a particularly novel idea - most cities across North America had such event in the ‘90s and ‘00s. In Hamilton’s case, it started as an experiment to attract more people to downtown’s new arts district.  However, soon new restaurants, cafes and boutiques were popping up along James Street North and wanted to join in the fun. 

Each month, the Art Crawl grew in popularity. 

Then in 2009, as an experiment, the James Street North merchants convinced the City to close the street for their September Art Crawl so they could add stages for music and create a real street festival - hence the name “SuperCrawl!” The first year attracted 3,000 visitors; today SuperCrawl is an annual 3-day festival the second weekend in September that attracts over 200,000 visitors from across southern Ontario and beyond (i.e. more than the Tiger-Cats attract all season). 

In many ways, SuperCrawl has put Hamilton on the art scene map!  

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SuperCrawl 2018

After attending a regular Art Crawl a few years back and being impressed, I added the Super Crawl to my list of things to see.  This was the year.    

In 2018, this eight-block festival, had two major stages (75+ music and theatre performances), hundreds of artists’/makers’ tents, 15 fashion shows, a block of food trucks, several art installations and a family fun zone.

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Music

The music program is very eclectic. This year’s program ranged from Broken Social Scene to Ian Thomas with the Hamilton All-Star Blues Band in the middle. Over the years, the festival has featured groups like Hamilton’s own Arkells (in 2014), to Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings (the late Jones being called the “female, James Brown” (in 2015). Other notables over the years - Sheepdog, Sam Roberts, Tanya Tagaq and Blackie and the Rodeo Kings.   

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 Found this grunge band playing in a dark back alley half a block off of James St N. Anything goes during SuperCrawl.

Found this grunge band playing in a dark back alley half a block off of James St N. Anything goes during SuperCrawl.

Fashion Shows 

One of the festival’s hidden gems is the fashion shows that showcase local designers.  I discovered this stage late on Saturday night. I loved the Cosplay Masquerade and was sorry to miss the Hamilton Vintage Community and The Thrifty Designer shows. Other interesting shows included Madjita: Indigenous Stories and Design and TroyBoy Drag Show.    

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Tents

I was surprised at the number of tents that filled up not only the street but every nook and cranny, creating a fun, flea market-like atmosphere.  From the usual artisans to people selling used records and books – there were treasures to be found.  

  By day…

By day…

  By night…

By night…

Food Trucks 

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In addition to the many restaurants along James St. North, there were 35+ food trucks.

The food trucks ranged from Hamilton’s famous Gorilla Cheese to one called The Flyin’ G’Nosh.  

I was intrigued by Buster’s Bloomin Onion Company’s truck with its huge multi-level trays each holding hundreds of whole peeled onions waiting to be battered, fried and served with Buster’s own chipotle mayo, peppercorn ranch dipping sauce or nacho cheese drizzle.  

I didn’t try them (I hate long lines) but given the long line-up, I bet they were good. 

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SuperCrawl also showcases how downtown Hamilton’s King William Street (one of the adjacent side streets) has evolved into a restaurant row with lovely patios.

In the evenings, it was like being on Calgary’s Stephen Avenue or perhaps in Montreal’s Plateau on a warm summer evening.  

And of course, there was candy floss (it wouldn’t be a street festival without it) and Tim Horton’s Coffee.  Kudos to Timmy’s for sponsoring the entire block that hosted the family fun activities.  

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Art Installations 

The art installations this year were a big disappointment.  I had seen photos of some of the past installations and was ready to be wowed.  Perhaps my expectation’s “bar” was set too high.  However, I was not alone in thinking the art installations looked junky - I overheard many people saying “this just looks like a pile of junk,” and in several cases, that literally is what they were. 

  Robert Hengeveld's artist statement reads, “Howl, a perpetual coyote-and-bunny chase races along the bright green tracks of a custom-built rollercoaster. It is never quite clear which decoy is chasing the other. Both decoys fall well short of the reality they stand to represent, and yet the spectacle of their wild and persistent action seems to make up for their lack of living breath or the occasional blemish in the stab at authenticity. Situated beneath the looping track is a vibrant landscape formed through the heaping piles of shredded paper. Accents of purple, neon pink, and red pop like wild flowers in what becomes an over-romanticized semblance of nature. The abridged world it creates is fantastical despite the ever-present reality of its modest materiality.”

Robert Hengeveld's artist statement reads, “Howl, a perpetual coyote-and-bunny chase races along the bright green tracks of a custom-built rollercoaster. It is never quite clear which decoy is chasing the other. Both decoys fall well short of the reality they stand to represent, and yet the spectacle of their wild and persistent action seems to make up for their lack of living breath or the occasional blemish in the stab at authenticity. Situated beneath the looping track is a vibrant landscape formed through the heaping piles of shredded paper. Accents of purple, neon pink, and red pop like wild flowers in what becomes an over-romanticized semblance of nature. The abridged world it creates is fantastical despite the ever-present reality of its modest materiality.”

  Most people I overheard talking about it saw it as a hodgepodge of junk thrown together, that seemed to have no focus.  There were a few laughs next to the roller coaster, not sure the artist’s message was received.

Most people I overheard talking about it saw it as a hodgepodge of junk thrown together, that seemed to have no focus. There were a few laughs next to the roller coaster, not sure the artist’s message was received.

 Male-Dominated by Vanessa Crosby Ramsay. “ using 6,000 ft of hand-knit computer cable, this piece considers historical ‘women’s work’ and our continued under-representation in fields dominated by me in the present” says the information panel.

Male-Dominated by Vanessa Crosby Ramsay. “ using 6,000 ft of hand-knit computer cable, this piece considers historical ‘women’s work’ and our continued under-representation in fields dominated by me in the present” says the information panel.

  Christopher McLeod's social art project EMERGENCY asks two simple yet complex questions of public participants: What’s the emergency? What can be done about it? Through the production of art as an instrument for change — a pillar beacon with a suggestion box-style cavity for gathering written submissions from the public — the project strives to be emblematic, participatory, and supportive.  Most people just ignored it…there were volunteers there sometimes to engage pedestrians to submit a ballot indicating “what is their emergency?”

Christopher McLeod's social art project EMERGENCY asks two simple yet complex questions of public participants: What’s the emergency? What can be done about it? Through the production of art as an instrument for change — a pillar beacon with a suggestion box-style cavity for gathering written submissions from the public — the project strives to be emblematic, participatory, and supportive.  Most people just ignored it…there were volunteers there sometimes to engage pedestrians to submit a ballot indicating “what is their emergency?”

  Bystanders by Megan Press was assembly of three temporary fixed sculptures made out of everyday materials strapped together. “Bystanders entice audiences to contemplate the familiarity of their identity and configuration as substitutes for human form, architectural structures and discrete objects” says the artist’s statement.  They looked like a smash-up of random materials to me. Most of the time people just walked by and didn’t engage with the work. But did find this impromptu moment, not sure if the young women is responding to the art or to her friends.

Bystanders by Megan Press was assembly of three temporary fixed sculptures made out of everyday materials strapped together. “Bystanders entice audiences to contemplate the familiarity of their identity and configuration as substitutes for human form, architectural structures and discrete objects” says the artist’s statement. They looked like a smash-up of random materials to me. Most of the time people just walked by and didn’t engage with the work. But did find this impromptu moment, not sure if the young women is responding to the art or to her friends.

  Members of    Flagship Gallery    (237 James St. N., Hamilton) offer a visual meditation the theme of "rest” in A Place of Rest. An outdoor installation of artwork created using church pews, dovetailed with an in-gallery exhibition, the piece invites visitors to pause and reflect. This piece seemed be the successful of the art installation as people did stop and where engaged by the piece.

Members of Flagship Gallery (237 James St. N., Hamilton) offer a visual meditation the theme of "rest” in A Place of Rest. An outdoor installation of artwork created using church pews, dovetailed with an in-gallery exhibition, the piece invites visitors to pause and reflect. This piece seemed be the successful of the art installation as people did stop and where engaged by the piece.

  One of the more interesting art experiences was provided by Kelsey Knight who would chat with you and then create a custom poem for you.   I also enjoyed the installation below in one of the permanent art galleries along James St. North.

One of the more interesting art experiences was provided by Kelsey Knight who would chat with you and then create a custom poem for you. I also enjoyed the installation below in one of the permanent art galleries along James St. North.

Circus Orange 

For the past four years, SuperCrawl has showcased Circus Orange, a local performance group that combines acrobatics and pyrotechnics into a fun family evening event. Think Cirque du Soleil up close and personal.  I was able to stand by the fence next to the performers on both nights with great views of the behind the stage warm-up and set-up, as well as watching the performance ringside.  A “front row seat” for FREE!

“It is not every company that can say they have a forensic gun expert working alongside a clown. Or, dancers who are also licensed pyrotechnicians and actors who happily dangle 80 feet in the air from industrial cranes. It is this kind of diversity that is our greatest asset and truly represents the Circus Orange company culture.” (Circus Orange website)

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Urban Renewal Spark

SuperCrawl is a good example of how festivals can serve as the catalyst for change - helping transform a tired and forgotten street and neighbourhood, to a trendy, vibrant urban playground.  

And, while James St N still has a long way to go, there is evidence of revitalization. New condos are being built; new shops and restaurants are joining the traditional Portuguese ones that have been there for many years.

There is a new fully leased WilliamThomas luxury student residence that will add 350+ students to the neighbourhood.  This 21-storey, 169-unit residence is named after the 1850s WilliamThomas building that was on the site until it had to be demolished in 2010 as it was falling down.  The four-storey façade of the original building along James St N was saved and reconstructed as part of the new student tower to enhance the pedestrian-friendliness of street.  At present, it is looking for a couple of new retail or restaurant tenants.  

  One of the reminders that James St N was once known as Little Portugal.

One of the reminders that James St N was once known as Little Portugal.

  The restored Lister Block in the foreground with the WilliamThomas student residence in the background.

The restored Lister Block in the foreground with the WilliamThomas student residence in the background.

Last Word

If you are in the Hamilton area on the second Friday of any month, check out Art Crawl.  And if you love music/art festivals, I highly recommend you plan a weekend vacation in Hamilton and take in the entire festival.  And did I mention it is FREE!

While there you can also check out the Hamilton Art Gallery and the Cotton Factory two other fun art adventures.

  There is lots of interesting architecture in downtown Hamilton, take some time to wander and you will be rewarded.

There is lots of interesting architecture in downtown Hamilton, take some time to wander and you will be rewarded.

Calgary's 2018 Festival Fun For Everyone!

Cities are often defined by their signature festivals - Edinburgh and Edmonton by their Fringe Festivals, Montreal by its Jazz and Comedy Festivals, New Orleans by Mardi Gras, Quebec City by Winter Carnival and Rio de Janerio by Carnival.

Similarly, Calgary is known internationally as the Stampede City, the result of the 100+ year old Calgary Stampede. However, over the past few decades Calgary has become more than just the Stampede. Spruce Meadows has made Calgary the show jumping capital of North America. Beakerhead celebrates Calgary’s emergence as an international engineering and science hub. And SLED Island reflects Calgary’s evolution as a budding new music city.

For anyone considering a visit Calgary in 2018, here is the line-up the City’s major festivals - something for almost everyone!

High Performance Rodeo, Jan 3 to 28

In 1987, Calgary’s One Yellow Rabbit collective of artists produced the “Secret Elevator Experimental Performance Festival,” renamed the following year as the “High Performance Rodeo.” Over the past 30+ years it has evolved into one of North America’s best contemporary art festivals, featuring local and international theatre, music, dance and visual arts, a true multidisciplinary celebration of the arts.  This year it offers up 23 sizzling shows, 153 performances at 15 different venues.

Link: High Performance Rodeo

  Friends highly recommend the 10-minute play festival, they have attended every year for the past 20+ years.

Friends highly recommend the 10-minute play festival, they have attended every year for the past 20+ years.

Big Taste, Mar 2 to 11

Foodies won’t want to miss the Big Taste where 80+ restaurants in City Centre offer special 3-course fix price menus for lunch and dinner.  There is even a Gourmet Big Taste 5-course dinner for $65. The Big Taste is Canada’s oldest restaurant festival and offers a chance to experience Calgary’s contemporary dining scene – Cotto, Pad Thai, Foreign Concept, Yellow Door, Pigeonhole, Bar Vonder Fels, Charbar, Model Milk, need I go on.

Link: Big Taste

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Calgary Performing Arts Festival, April 23 to May 13

In 1931, a small group of Calgary musicians created The Calgary Music Festival held at the Knox United Church. By 1954, the festival was so large the organizers asked the Kiwanis Clubs of Calgary to take ownership of the Festival, and became the Calgary Kiwanis Festival. It continued to evolve into one of the largest amateur competitive music festivals in North America by the end of the 20th century.  In 2014, the festival included theatre, resulting in another name change - The Calgary Performing Arts Festival.

Today, the Festival has over 4,000 entries and 12,000 participants performing in the new Taylor Centre for Performing Arts Centre at Mount Royal University.

Link: Calgary Performing Arts Festival

 Last minute practice...(photo credit: Calgary Performing Arts Festival)

Last minute practice...(photo credit: Calgary Performing Arts Festival)

Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo, April 26 to 29

Calgary Expo is a four-day mash-up of comics, sci-fi, gaming and cosplay fun for all ages. In addition to headliners, hundreds of vendors, workshops and talks and costumes transform Calgary’s Stampede Park into a colourful fantasyland for over 100,000 visitors. Don’t miss the parade on the Friday - everyone can participate as long as you dress-up!

Link: Calgary Expo

  Everyone loves a parade, especially one's with princesses and super heroes!

Everyone loves a parade, especially one's with princesses and super heroes!

Calgary International Children’s Festival, May 23 to 26

Established in 1987, the Calgary International Children’s Festival has grown to become Canada’s second largest Children’s Festival. Each year it not only transforms the four theatres and concert hall of Arts Commons into a giant children’s playground, but the surrounding Olympic Plaza as well. A wonderful festival for the young and the young at heart.

Link: Calgary International Children's Festival

  Outdoor performances at Olympic Plaza a free and fun for everyone. (photo credit: Calgary Arts Development)

Outdoor performances at Olympic Plaza a free and fun for everyone. (photo credit: Calgary Arts Development)

4th Street Lilac, Festival June 3

Join 100,000+ Calgary in celebrating the arrival of spring at the 4th Street Lilac Festival.  The street comes alive with six stages and 500 vendors creating Calgary’s best street party along 4th Street SW from the Elbow River to 17th Avenue SW.

Link: 4th Street Lilac Festival

  Finally Spring has arrived in Calgary (photo credit: Carpe Diem!)

Finally Spring has arrived in Calgary (photo credit: Carpe Diem!)

Spruce Meadows, June to September

Spruce Meadows is one of North America’s most unique festival sites, offering not one, but five major international show jumping events annually – National (June 6 to 10th), Continental (June 13 to 17), North American, (July 4 to 8th) Pan American (June 26 to July 1st) and Masters (Sept 5 to 8th).  If you love horses, this is a “must see.”

Link: Spruce Meadows

 Family fun at Spruce Meadows (photo credit: Spruce Meadows Media)

Family fun at Spruce Meadows (photo credit: Spruce Meadows Media)

Sled Island, June 20 to 24

Sled Island Music & Arts Festival is a curated mash-up of music genres and art with more than 250 events at 35 different venues (record stores to Olympic Plaza) including bands, comedy, films and exhibitions involving local and international headliners and emerging artists.

Link: Sled Island

 Crosss @ Tubby Dog (photo credit: Sled Island Photo)

Crosss @ Tubby Dog (photo credit: Sled Island Photo)

Calgary Stampede, July 6 to 15

Billed as the “Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth,” the Calgary Stampede combines a 2-hour long parade attracting over 200,000+ people, as well as a Rodeo, Chuckwagon Races, Grandstand Show, Agricultural Exhibition, Midway, Indian Village and Music Festival (headliners have included Garth Brooks, Katy Perry, Keith Urban, Reba McEntire) that attracts over one million visitors of all ages and backgrounds to Stampede Park.  

Link: Calgary Stampede

 Stampede is seven festivals in one - Agricultural Exhibition, Indian Village, Rodeo, Chuckwagon Races, Grandstand Show, Midway and Music Festival. 

Stampede is seven festivals in one - Agricultural Exhibition, Indian Village, Rodeo, Chuckwagon Races, Grandstand Show, Midway and Music Festival. 

Calgary International Folk Festival, July 26 to 29

No city can match the pastoral setting of Calgary International Folk Festival held at Prince’s Island Park located in the middle of the majestic Bow River and in the shadows of Calgary’s glittering downtown skyscrapers. It’s a magical place with glowing sunsets each night on the Main Stage headliners like Coeur De Pirate, Tanya Tagaq or Blue Rodeo in 2017. During the day, enjoy the six stages for an up close and personal experience under the canopy of 100-year old cottonwood trees.

Link: Calgary International Folk Festival

  It doesn't get any better than this!

It doesn't get any better than this!

Historic Calgary Week, July 27 to August 6

For history buffs, don’t miss the hundreds of lectures and walkabouts lead by local history enthusiasts organized by Chinook Country Historical Society.  Learn all about Calgary’s boom/bust evolution from the Blackfoot nation’s summer meeting place, to the pioneer settlers, to becoming one of North America’s leading corporate headquarters cities.

Link: Historic Calgary Week

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 GlobalFest, August 16 to 25

GlobalFest burst (pun intended) onto the scene in 2003, a collaborative effort that combines an international fireworks competition with a multicultural night market. Held in Calgary’s Elliston Park with its man-made lake, just off International Avenue (aka 17th Ave SE) it celebrates Calgary’s multiculturalism.  The American Bus Association ranked it in the Top 100 Events in North America.

Link: GlobalFest

  GlobalFest fireworks (photo credit: GlobalFest and J&J Photography)

GlobalFest fireworks (photo credit: GlobalFest and J&J Photography)

Shaw Classic / Tour Champions, August 29th to September 2

Calgary is not only home to many world-class golf courses, but also to one of the premier PGA TOUR Champions events attracting one of the best international line-ups of the season.  In 2017, the Shaw Classic had one of the largest audiences of any TOUR Champions event and set a TOUR Champions fundraising record of $8.3 million for local charities.  It is a great opportunity to watch some of the greatest golfers of our time – Fred Couples loves this tournament!

Link: Shaw Classic

  The Shaw Classic attracts all of the best players from the Champions TOUR, including Fred Couples, Hal Irwin, Nick Faldo, Jose Maria Olazabal, Miguel Angel Jimenez....

The Shaw Classic attracts all of the best players from the Champions TOUR, including Fred Couples, Hal Irwin, Nick Faldo, Jose Maria Olazabal, Miguel Angel Jimenez....

Honens Piano Competition, August 30 to September 8

If you love classical music and the piano, don’t miss the Honens International Piano Competition. The quarterfinals are in Berlin and New York this spring, but the semifinals and finals are in Calgary.  The winner gets $100,000 in cash and an artist development program valued at half a millions dollars – the largest of its kind. 

Link: Honens Piano Competition

Beakerhead, Sept 19 to 23

Beakerhead, perhaps one of the most unique festivals in the world, is a wonderfully bizarre combination of science, engineering and the arts.  It encompasses 60+ events, installations and shows throughout the City Centre over five days and attracts over 125,000 participants.  Bring the entire family - including grandma and grandpa.

Link: Beakerhead

  Beakerhead seems to be especially popular with teens and 20 somethings....

Beakerhead seems to be especially popular with teens and 20 somethings....

Calgary International Film Festival,  (2018 dates needed)

For the past 17 years, Calgary has hosted “the best little film festival on the prairies.”  0ver 200 films in multiple genres are screened over 12 days attracting 40,000 cineophiles.  The Calgary Film Festival is recognized as one of the top “short film” festivals in the world. 

Link: Calgary International Film Festival

Wordfest, Oct 9 to 14

Over the past 22 years, Wordfest has showcased over 900 writers conducting readings, workshops, and panel discussions.  Last year, 70 events attracted 15,000 people of all ages including children.  Its year-round literary program culminates with this October festival featuring international best-sellers, groundbreakers and up-and-coming authors.  

Link: Wordfest

 (photo credit: Wordfest)

(photo credit: Wordfest)

Christmas In Calgary

ZOOLIGHTS,  Nov 23 to Jan 5 2019

At Christmas, 1.5 million lights transform the Calgary Zoo into a winter wonderland.  It takes about 90 minutes to fully experience the displays. In addition, there is a mix of indoor (crafts, pictures with Santa) and outdoor activities (skating, fire pits) for all ages.

Link: ZOOLIGHTS

  (photo credit: Condo Living Magazine)

(photo credit: Condo Living Magazine)

Spruce Meadows Christmas Market

Nov 16–18, Nov 23–25, & Nov 30-Dec 2

The Spruce Meadows Christmas Market gives Calgarians a shopping experience filled with entertainment, delicious food, and unique gift buying opportunities.  300+ vendors spread Christmas Spirit in the indoor comfort of Spruce Meadows’ various buildings.  Kids love Reindeer Alley, Candy Cane Lane and listening to various choirs, instrumental performances and magical dance displays amongst the 74 kilometres of Christmas lights strung around the grounds. (Seniors (65+) and Children (-12) admitted free.

Link: Spruce Meadows Christmas Market

  Spruce Meadows Christmas Market (photo credit: Spruce Meadows Media)

Spruce Meadows Christmas Market (photo credit: Spruce Meadows Media)

Lions’ Festival of Lights, Dec 1 to Jan 7

Each year the Lions Clubs of Calgary create a free Festival of Lights in Confederation Park incorporating over 450,000 bulbs on 16,000 strings into various Holiday characters.  The festival is unique as you can enjoy it many different ways – drive-by on 14th St NW, walk, snowshoe, cross-country ski or even toboggan down the hills amongst the display. Lights are on from 6 pm to midnight, 7 days a week. 

Link: Lion's Festival of Lights

  Tobogganers having fun at Lion's Festival of Lights

Tobogganers having fun at Lion's Festival of Lights

Last Word

In addition to these signature festivals, Calgary has numerous smaller festivals year round that serve niche groups, especially in film and music. For more information check out Tourism Calgary’s website: http://www.visitcalgary.com/things-to-do/festivals-events

Everyday Tourist Calgary Festival Blog Links:

Everyday Tourist Visits Calgary Expo 2016

Postcards from 2016 Calgary Folk Festival

Calgary Historic Walks