2023 Kingston Buskers Rendezvous hits the streets July 6 to 9

The Street Circus is one of nine acts performing this year as part of the Kingston Buskers Rendezvous, which runs July 6 to 9, 2023, throughout downtown Kingston. Photo via Downtown Kingston BIA.

The countdown is officially on for one of Kingston’s most popular summer events, as the 2023 Kingston Buskers Rendezvous is now just days away. From Thursday, July 6, to Sunday, July 9, 2023, street performers from all over the world will descend on the Limestone City for the event that has been a downtown Kingston summertime staple.

According to Sandi Griffiths, Events Coordinator with the Downtown Kingston Business Improvement Area (BIA), organizers received over 100 submissions for this year’s festival. “It’s always difficult to narrow it down. There are some seriously talented and fun performers out there. We spend countless hours looking at websites, social media profiles, and YouTube videos. Of course, we’re looking for skill, but we also want to see the performer(s) on the street interacting with an audience,” she said. 

With its origins as a supplement to the annual downtown sidewalk sale in 1988, the Kingston Buskers Rendezvous has grown to become one of the most popular events of its kind in North America. As for what has made the Buskers Rendezvous such a popular and long-standing festival, Griffiths pointed to the generous support local audiences are known to show the artists. “The busking community is very tight-knit, and there’s a long-standing belief among street performers that Kingston audiences are very generous. So, we’ve always been able to bring in some really high-calibre performers. I think that definitely has impacted the longevity of the festival,” she noted. 

For 2023, organizers have invited nine big circle acts, providing audiences with a mix of new performers and a few crowd favourites as well. “I think it’s really important to strike a balance between returning acts who are beloved by Kingston audiences and performers who have never attended the festival. With our returning crowd favourites, we know they are going to deliver, so we feel confident taking a chance on new performers,” Griffiths said. 

One of the acts Kingston audiences will recognize from previous festivals is Wacky Chad, whose extreme pogo, juggling, and tiny-bike routines have been entertaining crowds for well over a decade. “This one-man interactive stunt comedy show serves up a delightful entertainment experience. Hilarious, action-packed, and physically mesmerizing, Wacky Chad’s charmingly funny jokes and wild antics will leave you roaring with laughter and applause in amazement,” noted the festival program. 

Wacky Chad performs his signature extreme pogo routine. Photo via Downtown Kingston BIA

Wacky Chad, whose real name is Chad Deitz, has been a crowd favourite at the Kingston Buskers Rendezvous since the mid-2000s, performing first as a member of the Pogo Dudes before launching his current solo act. In 2016, he took home the festival’s People’s Choice Award. 

Another popular act returning to Kingston for the first time in several years is Dan and Kim Craig, who call themselves The Street Circus. The husband and wife duo, who currently reside in Winnipeg, Manitoba, will perform over 100 tricks throughout their show, including the popular cyr wheel, as well as their incredible hand-to-hand acrobatics routine. Like Deitz, the Craigs have been performing on and off at the Kingston festival for over a decade, and won the People’s Choice Award back in 2018.

One of the acts performing at the Kingston Buskers Rendezvous for the very first time is Bex in Motion, a Canadian hula-hoop artist, whose show also includes fire, juggling, comedy, and acrobatics. “With the quirky, light-hearted attitude, and ability to involve audience members, Bex puts on a show that is sure to move you,” described the program. 

A complete list of 2023 Kingston Buskers Rendezvous performers is as follows:

  • Bex in Motion (Canada) – New
  • Derek Derek (Canada) – New
  • The Mighty Quinn Show (Canada) – New
  • Rockabilly Joe (Canada) – New
  • Seb and Fritzzz (Canada) – Crowd Favourite
  • Surprise Effect (France) – New
  • The Street Cirucs (Canada) – Crowd Favourite
  • Victor Rubilar (Spain) – Crowd Favourite
  • Wacky Chad (USA) – Crowd Favourite

With so many different acts to choose from, Griffiths said she is looking forward to catching each and every one of them. “I’m looking forward to seeing them all, honestly! I really enjoyed Seb & Fritzzz last year; they are so good at engaging the audience. Wacky Chad is legendary in the busking world. And Surprise Effect from France looks fantastic. There’s just so much talent,” she remarked. 

Aside from the big circle acts, organizers have also lined up several musicians and other roving entertainers such as face painters and character artists. The street corner performers will be found at various locations throughout the downtown core. 

The 2023 Kingston Buskers Rendezvous officially gets underway on Thursday, July 6, 2023, at Confederation Basin with Busker Play running 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. New for this year, daytime and evening performances will now take place exclusively in and around Springer Market Square, with organizers closing off Ontario, Market, and King Streets to create an area dubbed “Festival Square.” Road closures will be in effect from 1:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, with Ontario Street remaining closed from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Sunday only. 

With thousands of spectators expected to take in the four-day event, Griffiths noted the increased foot traffic will bring a much-needed boost to downtown businesses. “We know through studies that have been done through the years of the festival, that we have between 20,000 and 30,000 person visits to the downtown area over the weekend. Of course that has a huge impact on the economy of downtown over the weekend, but what we hope will happen, and this is hard to measure, is that the festival is a draw to return to the downtown to shop and eat,” she said. 

Throughout the festival, the Kingston Buskers Rendezvous features a number of marquee events, including the always popular Fire Show, which takes place on Princess Street between Division and Barrie on Saturday night at 10:00 p.m. “Last year, we had one of our largest audiences for the Fire Show in Busker history, and it was so much fun. I’m really excited to see what our performers come up with this year,” noted Griffiths. 

Throughout the day on Saturday, the Buskers Rendezvous will host a rideable Via Rail Mini-Train, taking children on a ride throughout Confederation Park. Rides will take place from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday only.

The Via Rail Mini-Train will be on hand in Confederation Basin throughout the day on Saturday, July 8, 2023. Photo via Downtown Kingston BIA.

The 2023 festival will officially come to a close on Sunday evening with the Grand Finale in Confederation Basin at 6 p.m. The event will feature performances from many of the festival artists, after which the People’s Choice Award winner will be announced. 

Those interested in checking out the festival throughout the weekend should note that organizers do not subsidize the performers in any way. While the event is free to attend, buskers make their living on tips from audiences at the conclusion of their shows.

More information on the 2023 Kingston Buskers Rendezvous can be found on the Downtown Kingston website.

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