A ‘Volunteer Rendezvous’ at City Hall

September 15, 2016 2:12 pm

In exactly one week, Volunteer Ottawa will be hosting its Volunteer Rendezvous at City Hall – connecting prospective volunteers with a wide selection of organisations looking for help. On September 22nd between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., Volunteer Ottawa welcomes one and all to come join the fun, learn about volunteer opportunities available in Ottawa, and make lasting connections with people and organisations in our community.

Cleverly dubbing this event a sort of “volunteer speed-dating,” the organisers at Volunteer Ottawa are excited to be hosting this free event. Shelley Ann Morris, Volunteer Ottawa’s Membership Coordinator, says that the event is for anyone and everyone looking for volunteer work. This event is the perfect opportunity for families to come together to find a cause they would like to support as a team, for new Canadians to learn about Ottawa and make friends, or for new graduates to make connections in their field and build up their resume.

Since there will be about 40 different associations at the Rendezvous, there will be an organisation in attendance to suit everyone’s interests, whether you would like to work with kids or seniors, focus on environmental issues or the arts, or help people with disabilities or those new to Canada. Some confirmed attendees are the Canadian Cancer Society, Free the Falls, Vanier Museoparc, and City of Ottawa Volunteer Services.

Ms. Morris says that attendees of the Rendezvous should bring “an open mind, curiosity and a willingness to explore all kinds of volunteer opportunities.” This event is the first step in starting a conversation about helping others in our community and creating lasting memories for all involved. It’s going to be a fun, enlightening event, and we hope to see you there!

Up for the Thrill of a Lifetime?

August 16, 2016 11:03 am

All photos by John Enaje

Are you looking for an adventure? A challenge? A thrill? Well, look no further, you can get all three right here in downtown Ottawa on the morning of August 18.

If you think you’ve got what it takes to join the ranks of the Ottawa YMCA-YWCA’s most fearless fundraisers, put your helmet on, strap in and get ready to rappel down the 16 stories of the Taggart Family Y building this Thursday.
This adrenaline rush is more than just a daring stunt – it’s an energizing opportunity to directly support families and individuals in the National Capital Region!

This year, all funds raised will help make camp experiences possible for kids. Raising $1000 to participate in the event might sound difficult at first, but the Y provides tips and tricks to achieve your fundraising goal. You also have the chance to compete as a team with your adventure-loving friends.

To get you even more motivated: $1000 is enough to send five kids to camp this summer!

To take the fear away from those who aren’t convinced yet: Everything will be safe and there will be professionals onsite showing you how to do everything. No experience is required for the adventure, just a little bit of bravery.



The YMCA-YWCA is a non-profit, charitable association that promotes healthy living, provides programming for youth and community members, helps those in need of support and so much more. From housing to summer camps, the Y is there. This is your opportunity to raise money for those programs that help so many people in the Capital.

To learn more about the YMCA-YWCA, visit ymcaywca.ca.

Weekend What’s Up – July 8 to 10

July 7, 2016 9:31 am

Here at Ottawa Life, we’re always looking for fun events that our city offers each weekend. Here is what the city has in store for you this July 8 to 10.

Gbasketball_12ot Game Ottawa – July 9 to 10 (10 a.m.), La Cité Collégiale

Attention all basketball players! Think you got game? Back for a second year is the Got Game Ottawa basketball tournament. After player input from last year’s event, this year’s tournament is being held across two days on July 9 and 10 at La Cité Collégiale, a sponsor of the tournament.
Got Game Ottawa is a charity event which raises funds to help a different charity each year. This year, the goal is to raise $800 towards Shelter Them, a Canadian children’s charity which helps orphaned children in Rwanda. All proceeds will help develop a soccer program for the orphans by purchasing equipment and paying for coaches.


Photo by James Peltzer.

Northern Lights Opening Night – July 9 to September 10 (10 p.m.), Parliament Hill

The best things in life are free! And so is the Northern Lights Opening Night. The bilingual show is presented nightly from July 9 to September 10, 2016. So grab your friends or family a blanket and enjoy the show whilst having snacks out of your picnic basket!
For more info, check out their website.

Shakespeare in the Park – July 2 to 30 (7 p.m.), A Park Near Youcharacter-acting
Songs, Swords and Sorcery are coming to a park near you – and this time it’s the tragedy of Macbeth that will carry you back to England and Scotland during the 11th Century.
Host “Bear and Co.” promises that it won’t be the Macbeth you read in high school. Bring your loved ones, a picnic dinner and a blanket to keep warm whilst the tragic drama leaves you shivering from delight.
To find out which park it will be in during the day you’d like to go, click here.

Color Run 5km – July 9 (9 a.m.), Rideau Carleton Racewaygirls-438152__180
Get ready for the most colourful fun-filled day of your life! Lace up your (better not too new) running shoes and get coloured all over while sweating on the 5k run. There will be a dance party and colour throw post-workout, so it’s going to be a fun day without a doubt.
The Color Run is hosted by the Tropicolor World Tour- check out their website for tickets and pricing.

Donald Kinsey, The Kinsey Report, RBC Ottawa Bluesfest, July 2015 - © MikesMedia.comBluesfest – July 7 to 17 (6 p.m.), LeBreton Flats Festival Grounds
If nights of toe-tapping tunes, sultry sounds, soothing blues and jazz music sound like your kind of thing, a visit to the Bluesfest at LeBreton Flats is a must! The Ottawa Bluesfest – which is the largest blues festival in Canada – brings some of the greatest entertainers in the music industry to Ottawa. Apart from blues musicians, the Line-up also includes world-famous artists such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Billy Idol, The Lumineers and Sam Hunt.
For tickets, information and the schedule, click here.

Later in the week: 

paintHow Deep Is Your Rhizome? – July 14 (7 p.m.), Ottawa Art Gallery
Thinking ahead of the weekend: On Thursday, July 14 the Ottawa Art Gallery is hosting an interactive multimedia event called “How Deep is Your Rhizome?”.
The intention of the crowdsourced art event is to find out what old-growth forests, gift economies, and the Internet have in common.
You can even participate in the event by sending in links, ideas and projects  that deal with the themes of networks, systems and other nodes of connection. If you are interested in joining this free event, you can either check their Facebook page or their website for further information.

Deadly Skies Over Ottawa

June 16, 2016 2:52 pm

Photo courtesy of the Canadian War Museum, edited for fit. 

The Canadian War Museum’s newest exhibition brings visitors into the lives of nine high-flying First World War fighter pilots, commanders and civilians.

Pilot trainer Marjorie Stinson.

One of the nine profiles, Marjorie Stinson was a teenaged American flying instructor who trained young pilots early in the war.

The Deadly Skies – Air War special exhibition brings together more than 80 artifacts to tell its stories. From a young Canadian’s goggles to one of the silver cups Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron) commissioned for himself after an aerial victory, the new collection explores the mind of fighter pilots who faced death nearly every time their plane’s wheels left the ground.

Beautiful graphic novel style images are woven into the exhibition alongside the artifacts to tell the nine men and women’s stories. These include the legendary tale of the Red Baron himself, the story of James Moses, a six-nations pilot and recollections from Ada May Smith, a young girl who witnessed a bombing raid’s aftermath in Great Britain.

The Red Baron's silver cup.

The Red Baron’s silver cup.

The Museum staff chose artifacts from all sides of the conflict. Aside from the Canadian and German pieces mentioned above, they’ll also be showcasing Ottoman officers’ pilot uniforms, historic documents and photos which will be on display for the first time.

For anyone looking for a more interactive experience, visitors are encouraged to try their hands at the balloon observation mission, aerodrome flight assembly and ace academy flight experience. Each will test your skills and thirst for adventure.

The Deadly Skies special exhibition is open until January 29, 2017. You can find out more at warmuseum.ca/deadlyskies.

Ottawa Dog Festival is Coming

June 10, 2016 2:52 pm

Set to be quite pawsibly the best furry festival in Ottawa, the first-ever Ottawa Dog Festival is coming this weekend, June 11th and 12th! Held at the RA Centre, general admission is free to all attendees and their dogs.

iStock_000043461858_Large (1)

You can expect fun activities for you and your canine companion(s) to watch or even try out at the event! Competitions like the Rideau River Dock Dogs will be running all weekend. Think your dog has what it takes? You can enter you and your dog to compete against others, or make a charitable donation for a trail jump, just make sure you bring a towel or two. Don’t want to get soaked? Public Lure Courses will also be available for you and your dog to test run. Disc Dog and Flyball shows will be running as well throughout the weekend to entertain you with a fast-paced running and jumping show.

Looking to be pampered? The exclusive VIPooch Tent offers special access to activities such as The Wunderdogs featuring Lottie the Collie, Mom & Mutt Manicures, pet psychics, therapists, massages and more! Upgrading to the VIPooch pass is $10, but humans aged 16 and under get in for free!


There will even be a tented marketplace for attendees (both human and pup) to shop the latest looks in canine fashions, get top-of-the-line toys and treats, and find other doggy equipment to properly spoil your fur-baby. At the marketplace, you can also meet with some of Ottawa’s amazing animal rescues, or get tips from trainers and specialists.

The Ottawa Dog Festival will be happening rain or shine. For more information, check out their website at www.ottawadogfestival.ca.  

Ottawa Race Weekend: Improving Health and The Community

June 8, 2016 12:41 pm

It was a weekend full of athletic gear, encouragement and perseverance through the heat. With over 48,000 runners participating the largest multi-distance run in Canada, Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend was a success, as always.

However, this year’s success was not only great for the participants; but organizations and the community as a whole benefited. The Scotiabank Charity Challenge has found a home at Ottawa Race Weekend for two years now and is unlike any other charity event. Every charity aspect is funded by Scotiabank from the fundraising platform to any additional charges. It is completely free to join and this ensures that 100 per cent of the profits go straight to the charity intended. The idea is great and the results are even better. Since last year the event has grown from just over 40 to 61 charities participating; with every charity returning from the previous year.

For the majority of the charities that partake, this event is their biggest fundraising opportunity of the year. Due to the accessibility and extremely large outreach, many organizations are finally getting the recognition and public attention they deserve.

Robert and Ross 1 (1)

Robert and Ross thanking all of their supporters over social media

A perfect example of the event’s success is this year’s most heartwarming story. Camp Misquah joined the Charity Challenge this year to raise awareness about their safe, fun and educational camp for those with developmental disabilities and maybe raise a couple of hundred dollars. Mark Wigmore, the camp’s charity organizer said that the event has allowed them to focus on the camp while Scotiabank took care of the rest. Campers, counsellors and organizers alike were able to come together to raise over $27,000, a shocking number for such a small organization.

One of the campers, Robert Jarecsni, 24, and his 12-year-old cousin Ross became closer than ever during the campaigning and were able to raise over $15,000 alone for the camp. “This experience has created a different bond for the whole camp. The process has integrated (the campers) and used them as a resources instead of just having people serve them. The campers feel more like assets now. It really has changed the whole dynamic,” said John Jarecsni, Robert’s father.  


Other, more familiar organizations joined the Charity Challenge and benefited greatly from it as well. The Humane Society was able to raise $10,388 to help find local rescues a loving home. Canadian Cancer Society raised an amazing $36,785 and the Distress Centre was able to raise $15,352 to help support a 24/7 completely volunteer-based distress line for anyone in need. The event as a whole raised a grand total of $775,000.

Each organization that participated in the Charity Challenge had to have at least ten runners in the various races. So, not only did each organization get all of the money that was raised for them, but their workers and supporters gained experiences together.  

Media personnel were also able to come together under a friendly competition and collectively raise $6,000 for the charity of their choice. In the spirit of giving, Scotiabank also gave out prizes to some charities of choice from media personnel as well as additional prizes to organizations that had the most runners or the most money raised by an individual.

The story of each organization and the event as a whole has touched many people and has really given a larger purpose to the Ottawa racing community. Each member was able to not only feel personally successful through their races but were able to make a positive impact and give back to their community thanks to the Scotiabank Charity Challenge and Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend.

Ottawa Marathon May 23 2015  © Photo by Francois Laplante / Rémi Theriault

Photo by Francois Laplante / Rémi Theriault

Your Guide to Doors Open Ottawa

June 3, 2016 1:14 pm
SHopify HQ interior, photo courtesy of Andrew Geddes, Union Eleven.

This weekend, the doors swing open on more than 130 of the city’s historically, culturally and functionally significant buildings. Heritage houses and government offices alike will be unlocked for Ottawan’s public viewing pleasure. We have selected a few of the many buildings that we think are essential stops on your journey around Ottawa. If you’re at all concerned about getting to all of your desired buildings, Doors Open can help. They will have a shuttle that can take you around, along with a bike tour. If you looked at some of these buildings and asked yourself, “Is this even in Ottawa?” then you are not alone.

To see the full list of buildings featured this weekend you can visit Doors Open Ottawa.

Earnscliffe: British High Commissioner’s Official Residence




This Victorian Manor is best known as the home of our first Prime Minister, Sir John A MacDonald. It is situated right in between the Ottawa River and Sussex Drive.



Shopify Headquarters

150 Elgin St.


Photo courtesy of Andrew Geddes, Union Eleven.



Even if you pictured what your dream office space would look like, it wouldn’t compare to Shopify’s Headquarters located right in Downtown Ottawa. The beautifully designed modern interior has spaces to work with different décor and themes for each room. Truly magical.



Watson’s Mill

5525 Dickinson St.




One of Manotick’s treasures is this quaint museum that doubles as a working mill still producing flour. Watson’s Mill sits right on the Rideau River and holds incredible historic value.



The Connaught Building

550 Sussex Dr.






Overlooking parliament hill, this Tudor Gothic-Style building has been deemed a Classified Federal Heritage Building primarily because of its architectural significance. The sandstone structure houses the Canada Revenue Agency.





Supreme Court of Canada

301 Wellington St.
supreme court

This giant granite, historically active building has seen some of the biggest cases in Canada. The classical symmetrical design is both intimidating and alluring.  Hopefully you will be visiting the court for Doors Open rather than a hearing.


Enjoy your inside look at our beautiful and historic city!

Weekend What’s Up – Canada Day Edition

June 1, 2016 5:00 pm

You know Ottawa Life loves giving you the scoop on what’s coming up as the week comes to a close, but this weekend is an extra special one, as we celebrate our nation’s 149th birthday. There’s no shortage of cool activities and awesome people to see this July 1st, and we’ve got you covered, from glamorous parties to relaxing fun for the whole family. Make the most of your Canada Day in the Capital this year. See you there! 

Ottawa’s Only Living Flag – July 1st, Downtown Rideau


Be a part of something big. Very big. This year on Sussex Drive in Downtown Rideau you can gather to be a part of the living version of our Canadian Flag. There will be complimentary refreshments and professional photography. And the first 500 arrivals get a free T-shirt! What more incentive do you need?

Live 88.5 Canada Day in Kanata Concert – June 30-July 1, Kanata 

The Peptides performing at FUSE Festival. Photo by Andre Gagne.

The Peptides. Photo by Andre Gagne.

For all you suburban folks (and those willing to make the trip for an awesome show), here’s one for you! Live 88.5 is hosting a two-day event of epic fun: the concert on July 1 features bands like Silver Creek, Ambush, and the headlining band, The Peptides, who’ll lead the show into it’s 10 p.m. fireworks display. There’s even fun for the whole family, with events going all day including bouncy castles, yoga in the park, and even appearances from a Disney princess or two.

Canadian Museum of Nature – July 1, Downtown Ottawa 


Who doesn’t love free admission? This Canada Day, the Museum of Nature is offering free general admission all day! Take a break from the sun and the crowds and step into the newly renovated (and don’t forget air conditioned) castle that marks one of the Capital’s primary attractions. Get your fill of nature and culture by exploring the world-class exhibits and galleries for free!

NAC Orchestra Performs in the Park – 7 p.m. July 1, Confederation Park


Ottawa knows how to go big on Canada Day, but among the crowded and noisy fun happening all day, the NAC will be holding an evening concert in Confederation Park that’s filled with class and free of charge. If you’re a classical music fan, or just looking for a beautiful and relaxing break from the partying, check out this 80 minute concert in cooperation with Ottawa Jazz Festival. The concert features Ottawa’s own star violinist, Kerson Leong, and promises to be a great time.

Canada Day Boat Party – July 1, Gatineau 


End the night with a splash this Friday on the boat party touring the Ottawa river under the light of the Parliament Hill fireworks! The boat leaves the dock at 895 Rue Jacques-Cartier in Gatineau at 8:30 so don’t be late! On the boat there’ll be great music, awesome people, and a Canada Day you won’t forget. The party is hosted by Kroozone, and you can check out their website for details on how to buy tickets.


canada+dayCHEO Benefit Concert – 9 p.m. July 1, House of Targ

Bank Street’s beloved home of pinball and perogies is bringing dozens of local musicians to play some classic Canadian hits. Cover is a pay-what-you-can donation that will go to providing a classic arcade machine for the kids at CHEO.

Come for the music, stay for the pickled egg eating contest. You can find out more here.

Boobyball Returns to Ottawa

May 26, 2016 2:24 pm
Boobyball Ottawa 2

Get ready to mark your calendars Ottawa!

Ottawa’s Boobyball Committee was at Inside Out Studio in Westboro to announce the date of Ottawa’s 2nd annual Rethink Breast Cancer fundraiser. Co-Owner Janine Goulet donated her time to instruct a class at the studio, allowing the Ottawa Boobyball team to raise $266 for Rethink Breast Cancer.

The Bobbyball team taking a class from Janine Goulet

The Bobbyball team taking a class from Janine Goulet

During the class, the Ottawa Boobyball Committee announced the fundraiser date. Ottawa’s Boobyball will be held on Friday, October 28. Other cities across Canada include Toronto whose fundraiser will be on October 14, Winnipeg on October 22 and Calgary on October 27.

Ottawa’s CTV Morning host Melissa Lamb was selected to be the fundraiser’s honorary chair.

This year, the Boobyball fundraiser to benefit Rethink Breast Cancer will take place at Lago Restaurant and Bar. At the event, guests will enjoy drinks, dancing and unique activations. Over 400 socially-connected young professionals are expected to mark the second year as another sold out event. Ottawa’s biggest influencers and trend-setters in the media and online community are expected to be in attendance.

Last year, Ottawa kicked off the first annual event raising $58,000 dollars for Rethink. The fundraiser theme for this year has yet to be announced. Previous years’ themes include a space theme, a varsity theme and a circus theme.

Bobbyball at Inside Out Studio

Bobbyball at Inside Out Studio

Tickets are expected to go on sale in July. All proceeds from this year’s event will go directly to Rethink Breast Cancer’s mission to empower young people worldwide who are concerned about and affected by breast cancer.

To learn more about Rethink Breast Cancer, please visit rethinkbreastcancer.com.
For more information on Boobyball, please visit boobyball.rethinkbreastcancer.com.

Rex, Pugs and Rock & Roll

May 25, 2016 10:46 pm
Andrea Valois with Benny

Photos supplied by Rock and Rescue.

Local musician Andrea Valois has two passions, music and dogs, and when you put them together the result is a rock concert that is truly bad to the bone.  Modeled after a similar event in Los Angeles, Rock and Rescue Ottawa was put together to raise funds for local dog rescues while simultaneously raising awareness of pet adoption and sterilization.

“Animal Rescue from a grassroots perspective has existed for a very long time. Sadly, there is never enough time or resources to save all the animals at risk. The need is so very great,” says Valois, President and Co-founder of Ottawa Dog Rescue.

According to a report released by the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, there are at least 2 million homeless dogs in Canada with 600,000 euthanized every year, though Valois says the number could be much higher. She hopes to help rectify this problem with a little bit of rock and roll.


Autumns Cannon’s Marty Sobb with his rescue dogs Gracie and Carli.

The May 28 concert takes place at the Heart and Crown on Preston and will feature performances by Autumns Cannon, Water’s Edge, Jackson Miles and Barstool Prophets frontman Graham Greer. For the concert’s fourth year, Valois plans to put a rockin’ spin on how the message is relayed.

“The real message is that we as humans need to take responsibility for the companion animal crisis we have created,” she explains. “Taking responsibility can only be achieved by informing the general public of the impact our actions have had and to take the steps to correct it. By coupling a social message with a fun night full of music and other entertainment, we reach people who perhaps may not know there are Rescues out there and why there is a need.”


Graham Greer, just one of the performers at Rock and Rescue 2016.

Though Valois says that finding sponsors has been difficult in the past, the nine member R&R team hasn’t had a problem finding musicians to perform. The Water’s Edge has been back to play at Rock and Rescue four years in a row. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, however, given that their frontman, Ian Cameron, is also a veterinarian who has been involved with the Westboro Animal Hospital since he was seven. It’s been a family affair. His father is also a vet and his mother worked as his assistant.

“Both of my parents have lived their lives dedicated to the profession and were often involved in rescue work,” says Cameron. “I used to bring strays home for care all the time. The apple did not fall far from the tree.”

Cameron, who has three rescue dogs himself, says he has found his two careers balance each other exceptionally well. To him, the daily work stresses at the clinic are eased by playing music. Some of his songs are even about rescue work. Even though he has assisted as a volunteer and the clinic offers major donations to the Ottawa Humane Society, he felt that he could be doing more to assist rescue efforts in the city.

“I believe in a pay-it-forward concept with rescue. The more vets that see the benefits in helping with rescue work, the more that will want to be involved,” he says. “Some of the most rewarding experiences of my life have occurred with the hardest of rescues.”

The sale of bred animals from pet stores has been a long time concern for Cameron as it relates to community health. He says that many dogs are inbred by puppy mills and often carry serious diseases that can be transmitted to other animals or even people. Also concerning are the number of companion animals neglected by those that take them in. According to the American Humane Association, 7 to 20 percent of pets brought into a new home are not there as early as six months after acquisition. Companion animal overpopulation continues to be a problem globally. Marty Sobb, guitar and keyboards for Ottawa’s Autumns Cannon, learned this first hand on two separate vacations.

While traveling around the Turks and Caicos Islands on a scooter, Sobb and his girlfriend found a dog in the middle of the road. As he recalls it, the animal was no bigger than a squirrel. The two took the dog home and name her Gracie. Their other dog, also a rescue, was found living under a car at a gas station in the Bahamas.

“It’s important to help out because there is a massive need to get unwanted or stray pets the medical help they need and also to find homes for those who are without,” says Sobb. “The amount of strays out there is alarming. If everyone got their pets fixed, it would help the problem immensely.”

“I think the entire endeavour needs to be relayed more broadly,” adds Graham Greer. “There’s a definite disconnect between pet owners and lovers and pet rescuers that can only be bridged with greater overall awareness of the problems rescuers face.”

Greer speaks lovingly of his “two beautiful mutts” Molly and Piper, adding that an event like Rock & Rescue can only act as a lightning rod. Those who are already passionate about the cause may discover some new music and those who just want to rock will learn about the cause.

logoLast year Rock & Rescue raised $20,000 in one night, their most successful event to date. Along with the concert, attendees can participate in an online auction with over 110 items currently up for bid including the chance to engage in a Top Gun style dog fight –no pun intended– at 10,000 feet in two jets. How close will you be? “We’re talking Snowbird close,” boasts the auction posting. Proceeds from both the show and auctions will go to Ottawa Dog Rescue, Freedom Dog Rescue and the Canadian Dachshund Rescue Ontario.

“If you like going out and having a great time and supporting local artists, this is a perfect event for you,” says Valois. “The bonus?  The event has a social message and a positive impact on the community at large. The rescue side of me is truly humbled by the support and the musician side of me just wants to rock out and be heard.”

Tickets for Rock and Rescue 2016 are still available and can be purchased on the event website.


Statistic from a 2012 report by the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies.

On the Horizon of Ottawa’s First Zine Fair

May 24, 2016 4:02 pm
Zine Fair 1

Poster by Morgan Sea.

After enjoying years of underground popularity, zines are about to step out onto a whole new stage in Ottawa. The first Ottawa Zine Fair is taking over the Bronson Centre Saturday, June 4 in what will be the local zine community’s biggest mainstream outing to date.

“As far as I know this is the first zine fair in Ottawa and yes, definitely the biggest,” says Faelan, one of the zine fair’s two co-organizers.

Although the city has seen plenty of zine buying and sharing events, most are crammed into smaller venues like Pressed, or until recently, Raw Sugar Café. The Bronson Centre is a massive space with enough room to house zinesters (zine creators) from outside the city, and even outside the country.

“We have around 30 tables, and some folks are sharing,” Faelan says.

This means a huge amount of space for all the creative and off-the-wall ideas zine readers expect. A zine – pronounced ‘zeen’– is a self-published magazine often handcrafted and then photocopied to share with the world.

“It can be about pretty much anything,” Faelan says. “I’m not totally sure what to expect…we’ll have tonnes of zines from all over.”

Zine Fair 2

Poster by Morgan Sea (morgansea.wordpress.com).

Zine subjects can range from wacky art collections to practical leaflets to treatises on gender studies, race, or sexuality. During the Ottawa Zine Fair you’ll be able to find works by Babely Shades, a local collective of artists and activists of colour, Broke Bellies, who help readers find cheap or even free meals in the capital region and Heidi Cho, a writer and illustrator who makes zines about navigating through life as “a second generation queer South Korean person.”

Related: The 411 on Ottawa’s Zine Scene.

Faelan and his co-organizer, Lee, were able to fund the zine fair through a grant from Awesome Ottawa which they applied for on a whim. Once they knew they had the money, they started contacting zinesters from around the city to build up their vendors. They wanted the event to be huge, but still feel as local as possible.

“The response was overwhelming,” Faelan says. He predicts the event’s turnout is going to be comparable to other fairs in Toronto and Montreal, and it will definitely hold the most zinesters and readers Ottawa’s ever seen under one roof. If everything goes well, Faelan and Lee hope to start planning a second zine fair for next year.

The Ottawa Zine Fair will be held in Mac Hall at the Bronson Centre from 11 a.m. June 4 to 5 p.m. Cover is by donation and pay-what-you-can with all proceeds going to the Prisoner Correspondence Project. You can find out more about the fair, including a full list of vendors, on their website.

The Fantastic Cosplays of Comiccon 2016

May 17, 2016 12:40 pm
Harley Quinn – Ottawa Comiccon 2016 – Photo by Geeks are Sexy

All photos by Yan Fortin. 

Although Ottawa Comiccon began on Friday the 13th, the convention was anything but unlucky. The Pop-culture fan convention showcased sci-fi, horror, anime, video games, tabletop games, comic books and of course, plenty of amazing cosplayers dressed as their favourite characters. This year’s Comiccon featured some of the best costumes that the convention has ever seen. To catch up on what you missed if you didn’t attend, take a look at the slideshow below.

You can find more Comiccon fun and the full slideshow here.

Getting Sketchy with Kids in the Hall’s Kevin McDonald

May 16, 2016 9:34 am

Photos supplied by Crush Improv

He’s the bearded woman driving a Chicken Lady through the countryside. He’s the irritated man in the bank line suddenly bemused by a flying pig. He’s Sir Simon Milligan, a man possessed by many “polite demons that would open a door for a lady carrying too many parcels – but demons, nonetheless!” He’s got things to do. They call him Jerry Sizzler or perhaps that’s Jean-Pierre, a respected French mime instructor.  He’s the guy nobody likes at the back of bus, probably because he’s eating worms. He’ll borrow your video but don’t expect it back. Slipped his mind, you see. He’s all of the above and he’s pinching your face. He’s most certainly not really a gorilla. He’s Kevin McDonald, one of the founding members of Canada’s funniest export, sketch-comedy troupe The Kids in the Hall. Still sketchy after all these years, McDonald wants to show you how you can be, too.

Born in Montreal, McDonald would be one of many comedians who would break out of the thriving Toronto scene in the mid-1980s. However, the man who would go on to play so many memorable characters got his first big acting gig when he was a child, playing a tooth for one of his father’s dental clients. You have to start somewhere, right? Now, one might think this would have launched a long career of tinkering inside people’s mouths with shiny metal, but the kid in the molar outfit realized he was funny. He liked that.

McDonald wrote his first sketch in his mid-teens and started performing early, often attending Second City sketch workshops. He met Dave Foley there and the duo started performing around Toronto as The Kids in the Hall. Bruce McCulloch and Mark McKinney would join the troop in 1984 with Scott Thompson followed in 1985. Though a brief breakup up of the group would occur when McKinney and McCulloch were offered writing gigs for Saturday Night Live, they reformed in 1986 and have been performing together off and on ever since.

However, before Lorne Michaels, CBC TV, an exceptionally catchy theme song and a feature film, the Kids were mainly winging it every Monday night at Toronto’s Rivoli, performing a new show each time of fresh material. Two years ago, McDonald would return to his improvisational roots –minus the tooth costume– when he joined Ottawa’s Crush Improv troupe for a night of absurdity that some may still be recovering from. I was there that night. I only stopped laughing last Thursday and only because I stubbed my toe on a coffee table.

“He’s very silly –which we love,” says Crush co-founder Al Connors. “We love working with weirdos, and Kevin is certainly a weirdo in the best sense. He’s also super nice and easy to talk to.”

McDonald enjoyed working with the group so much that he got in touch with Crush about a return this year. They were more than happy to oblige. They will host another comedy night in Arts Court with McDonald on May 22 with a bit of a twist. The three part show will include a stand-up comedy performance by McDonald as well as new sketches written by students of a workshop he will be giving early in the day.

“Kevin runs through the process Kids in the Hall use to create sketches –which involves getting on your feet to improvise some short scenes. Then you write what worked, and try it again,” explains Connors. “What’s great about this particular workshop is that it all works toward creating material for a show that night. So, not only do you get to try your hand at sketch writing, but you get to try it out in front of an audience!”

The evening will end with the more traditional improve lunacy the troupe is used to where anything can happen. If Kevin McDonald is involved, that anything that can happen will most certainly be hilarious.

Tickets for the comedy night are on sale now at Crushimprov.com where you can also register for McDonald’s sketch writing workshop. VIP tickets also include a private, catered after-party at the nearby The Albion Rooms.


Ottawa Life talked with McDonald about his early career, his coming workshop, sketch writing with the other Kids and his transition to stand-up comedy. We were sure to not mention that Orson Wells film about that newspaper tycoon…with the sled and…you know…ummm…what was it called?

Ottawa Life: So, how does the son of a dental equipment salesman start getting involved in sketch comedy?

Kevin McDonald: In a way, my dad the dental salesman was a sketch comic. He had to put on shows in front of dealers; salesmen sold the equipment to dealers and dealers sold them to the dentists. He would sort of write sketches for these shows. Sometimes, he got me to perform in them. I once played a giant molar and my cousin played a giant drill. It wasn’t long before I realized that I loved this and realized that I was funny. Being funny was the only thing that I could do really well. So, I started writing sketches. It was just for fun – I was a teenager without a sketch troupe – but I loved Monty Python, SCTV and Saturday Night Live.

Do you recall the first sketch you ever wrote?

I wrote my first sketch at 16 and it was a parody of the movie, Psycho. It was called Psycho-sematic and it was just a guy in the shower by himself, screaming, thinking he’s feeling pain. I didn’t want to be a stand-up so, after I got kicked out of college, I joined Second City workshops when I was 19. Right away, I met other teenagers like Mike Myers and Dave Foley and I was well on my way in the sketch world. I was lucky to be in Toronto during such a good time for sketch comedy.

What was the process for The Kids in the Hall when it came down to writing the sketches? Did you each bring things to the table individually, write as a group or did you have members that sort of just deviated to writing with each other more?

When The Kids in the Hall were just a troupe, before the TV show, we wrote through improv. We did a show of completely new sketches every Monday night at a club called the Rivoli. On Thursdays and Fridays, we’d meet in groups of two to come up with premises for sketches. On Saturday, Sundas and Monday afternoons, we would meet, take our favourite premises and write them through improvising. We’d talk out the idea first and then act it over and over until we had a sketch. And then we’d move on to the next idea. When we had a TV show, we’d be at our computers and we would just write up the sketches in groups of two, three and one until we had a sketch. When we wrote Brain Candy we did it the hardest way possible, we wrote it while all in the room together. We couldn’t go on to the next page until we all agreed and we never agreed.

Do you feel you work better writing alone or with others to feed off of?

I feel personally that I am better writing alone but with a group close by. Whenever I was writing alone and I got stuck on something, it was amazing to have a group of comedy geniuses in the same building. I would ask for help and a great idea would always pop up – then I’d go back to my little room and keep writing.

Kevin-McDonald-second-storey-theatre-copyCan you share a particular comedic memory of your Kids days at it relates to the writing of a sketch?

During The Kids in the Hall TV show days, my favourite part of the process would be the writing time. We would write for a month then prep and shoot the filmed sketches for another month and then rehearse and shoot the live audience sketches for a third month. Then we would start writing and begin the three month process again. It was a golden time where the ideas seemed to be flowing out of us. We all loved writing. We would write at our office from Monday to Friday.

However, I remember one Saturday, when both our girlfriends were busy, Dave and I went to the office to write. We were going to write the “Sizzler Sisters” sketch but when we got there, lo and behold, Bruce was there also writing on a Saturday. He talked about how Dave and I should write a sketch with our two Cour de Bois characters, the frontiersmen who hunted and sang “Chante Allouette”. Dave and I used to put these characters in improvs. Then Dave came up with an idea to put those two characters in modern times and have them hunt for suits of business men. So I ended up being in one office, writing the “Sizzler Sisters” sketch and Dave and Bruce were in another, writing the Cour de Bois scene. Then, when it was over, I started walking home and a young drug dealer tried to sell me hash. I said no and then he recognized me. As I walked away, I thought it would be funny if I called the cops on him – especially after he recognized me from TV. I ran back to the office and wrote “Drugs Are Bad” based on that incident. So three well known Kids in the Hall sketches were written on that Saturday. Oh, to be young and obsessed again.

I had to pleasure of finally seeing the Kids live on a recent tour. How do you find returning to those old sketches? Do you think, hummm, this could use updating or is it generally easy picking up exactly as they had been performed before?

Every time we do an old sketch of ours it’s like we’re back in the ‘80’s writing it for the first time. We half go by memory but we also think of new jokes that were better than the old jokes. We don’t think in terms of updating the old material –we just know that sketches are never finished even if they are filmed. You can always re-write and improve a sketch. During a tour, after the show, we are always on the tour bus thinking of better jokes for some sketches; even on the second last night of the tour!

I first saw you perform with Crush Improv during their My Summer Crush event two years ago. How did you find working with the group?

I had a lot of fun work with the Crush Improv team. They are so enthusiastic and have no shortage of ideas. I feel safe with them and know if I can’t come up with a funny idea that they will, which is the best thing you can say about improvisers.

As a sketch writer, how easy or difficult do you find not having a script to follow in the instance of that wholly improvised show with Crush?

I’m a sketch writer but I started as an improvisor and am completely comfortable with making things up as you go along, especially with Crush. I like both things. I like having a script to dig into and I like making things up. I’ve done it a lot recently and I enjoy taking my time, taking the improv one step at a time and seeing what we end up with.

Kevin-McDonald--crush-2016How did you develop the stand-up portion of the show, something neither sketch nor improv? 

I developed my stand-up a few years ago when The Kids in the Hall cancelled a tour. Scott Thompson and I had the same manager at the time and he suggested that the two of us go on a tour anyway, a stand-up tour. I had always been afraid of stand-up. I feel I’m more comfortable doing comedy through acting, talking to someone and reacting to what they’re saying, but I accepted the challenge. I wrote a routine loosely in point form so I had a basis for what I was going to say but had room to improvise in between the ideas I had. My biggest problem in stand-up is that I can’t write jokes. So I have to find sneaky ways to get laughs, like pauses and faces and stories. My routine isn’t so much stand-up as it is a guy doing a sketch show of someone pretending to be a stand-up.

What made you want to start teaching sketch writing?

I’ve bored people for years at parties with my theories of how to make comedy sketches and what a comedy sketch is. I moved to Winnipeg from LA a few years ago because I fell in love with a woman there. There was also a writers strike at the time and so I needed to make my own work. Bit by bit I came up with a way to take these boring stories of mine and put them in a class. I found that the biggest thing I could contribute is the method of how The Kids in the Hall wrote sketches through improv.

What is a word or two of advice you like to give new sketch writers?

My biggest advice to sketch writers is to just keep writing. I can start you off by teaching you a method. But it’s just one method of many. You can take that that method, use it and write lots of sketches with it. After a while, you will realize that you now have your own method, one that you developed naturally over time. The more you write, the more you find your own voice and the better you get. It’s a silent kind of improvement. You don’t know you’re getting better, but you are. It’s like watching a puppy grow. You don’t know the puppy is getting bigger until you go away for a week and come back. Write as many sketches as you can. Soon you will be your own writer who doesn’t need a workshop.

Also, have your sketches performed as much as possible. You will only learn to improve your sketch writing by seeing your sketches up on their feet and seeing what people laugh at and what they don’t laugh at; what works as story and what doesn’t work. Write all the time. Perform all the time.

The Adventures of Cliff Caporale, Ottawa’s Con-Man Extraordinaire!

May 15, 2016 3:56 am

All photos by Andre Gagne

The son of European immigrants, Cliff Caporale was just your average kid living in the suburbs of Montreal when he was struck by an electro-charged decade called the 1980’s. Suddenly, he began to notice changes. He became obsessed with cartoons and comics! As one of the only kids in the neighbourhood, he recalls, Saturday morning cartoons and superheros was a way to unite with other children growing up. Not being able to afford all the toys a kid of the ’80’s would want, he turned to his imagination. He’d find a way. Soon he was making transforming robots out of common pieces of paper and reusing his old toys to make new action figures characters from his favorite television show, The X-Files. The pop-culture world had opened up for him and he dived in.

That kid had some pretty big dreams and he carried them with him along the way. There’s some grey in his hair these days but some things haven’t changed. He still admits to reading comics before bedtime.

Caporale wasn’t satisfied, though, geeking out within the confines of his own home. He knew there were others like him out there. Some called them nerds but, to Cliff, they were kindred and their culture was only getting bigger. If only he could bring them all together.

Insert one light-bulb dinging sound effect here.

With a little help from a super team of friends in Montreal, The Ottawa Comiccon was born in 2012. Five years later, the event just keeps expanding.

“There’s no question that Comicon is growing,” said Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson at the convention’s May 13 press conference in City Hall. “When I go I’m amazed at the enthusiasm and the excitement that fans really get in seeing there real life idols and heroes, how they dress the part, how they act the part.”

Conventions like these have exploded with a Death Star like immensity in recent years. This year 40,000, more than doubled from the first year, are expected to attend the three-day event and they bring with them multiple fan bases that seemingly include every conceivable colourful creation your mind could fathom. When the EY Centre doors opened Friday night in walked the Steampunks, elves, ponies, heroes and villains. Marvel Avengers, DC caped crusaders, zombies, dragons and princesses from a galaxy far, far away, they were all there.  In their hands they clutched wands, sonic screwdrivers, axes, and swords of light. It looked like all of them were smiling.

“Conventions like this one reach all kinds of people and so many generations that you normally wouldn’t reach,” actor Billy Dee Williams of Star Wars fame and Comiccon guest told Ottawa Life.

For Caporale, Programming Director of the convention, this has to be the world’s biggest toy box. Not to shabby for a guy who used to make his own Transforms out of paper. Over the weekend the cavalcade of costumed creativity will scoop up vintage toys, show off imaginative outfits that cost some of them hundreds to make, roll dice, tell stories, share mutual loves, avoid Daleks, listen to a 50 piece orchestra and sit in for Q&A panels with time travelers, Hulks, Changelings, space pilots, vampire slayers and Hobbits.

But what were the origins of this marvel of pop culture? How does it get put together each year? And why do they keep coming?

Join us,  as we follow Cliff Caporale, Ottawa’s Con-Man Extraordinaire –also known as Programming Director– on his now five year mission to bring the geek culture multi-verse to the masses.

Allons-y! comic templte1bcomic templteh
Ottawa Life: So, obviously you’re a fan of comics and a slew of things related to geek culture. What were some of the things in your youth you deviated to that would later shape your interest in the Con/Geek culture scene that’s exploded in recent years?

Caporale: As a child of the 80’s, I was very much into cartoons and toys, so I watched quite a bit of the superhero shows like Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, Superfriends, and more, like Transformers. I had picked up comics from friends here and there, but it really wasn’t until the first Transformers comic from Marvel that I became a fan. That led to me picking up several X-Men titles, like Uncanny X-Men, X-Factor, New Mutants, and eventually Excalibur. The outsider themes in the X-Men books really spoke to me, being one of very few immigrants’ kids in the suburbs of Montreal.  Wanting to know more about the X-people’s adventures, a neighbour of mine took me to my first comic book convention to find some missing issues. I was hooked.

You had a lot to geek out to as an ’80’s kid. What’s been one of your biggest geek out moments as an adult?

This past April, I found out Prince was heading to Montreal. I’ve been a fan of his since I was a tweener, with my first album ever being Purple Rain (on cassette!). I never had the chance to see him play live; as a kid it was unattainable to see a concert, and as an adult I would always miss the opportunity to buy tickets. When tickets were released for his most recent concert, I jumped at the chance. It was just him on piano, signing and charming the crowd. It was exquisite. I teared up several times, sometimes because of the power of the music, other times because I would realize where I was. It was an experience I will never forget. With his passing a few weeks after that, it showed me that you can’t pass-up certain experiences.comic templtebcomic templtefSUDDENLYc
When I was a kid I can recall being teased for wearing a Ninja Turtles shirt or playing fantasy games. Now, it’s almost like its uncool not to be geeky over something. Why do you feel this culture has blown up so much in recent years and permeated so much so that city’s like Ottawa can have multiple events like Comiccon each year?

I think there are several factors that led to this. First, you have two generations that grew up watching shows with characters such as Batman, Spider-Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers, Pokémon, and more. Add to that the rise of video games, the box office and critical successes of several comics franchises. These are products that aren’t only cool looking, but also bring universal themes and morals that a slew of people identify with. Now, contrary to sports, where fans can gather weekly to watch their favourite team, geeks didn’t have a place where they can gather in the thousands. We only had our living rooms to watch our show or a nice chair to read our books. For us, conventions are where we go to have that group experience.

What was the genesis –or origin, if you will– of the first Ottawa Con?

Back in 2011, the original organizers of Montreal Comiccon, Alex La Prova and Oscar Yazedjian, saw that Ottawa did not have a similar event. They did their research, added new partners, and noticed that there was indeed a thriving geek community. They took a chance and booked the EY Centre for May 2012, to see what would happen. After the initial bookings with exhibitors and guests, we were hoping for, at best, 8,000 fans. Over two days, we had 22,000 fans come to the first Ottawa Comiccon.comic templte3fBut Then
What goes into planning one of these each year? Do you pretty well start the day after the other ends?

There’s a lot of planning that goes into each year’s event. We’re a very small core team that work on Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City all year round, and we tend to wear different hats, depending on what needs to be done. Planning will sometimes start as early as 18 months before, to be sure we’ve secured key assets, and started discussing certain technical contracts. The important thing is to remain fluid, with certain guidelines, as what we started planning isn’t always the end product.

Each year the guest list seems to expand with more and more faces. What goes into bringing them to the city and how are they chosen?

The first step, is gauging interest. Which guests are folks in Ottawa interested in? What are they reading? What are they watching? We gather information from different resources, like social media, local comic book store and comments fans share. From there, we see who from that list is attainable (not everyone does conventions) and who is available. We try to create themes for a given year, but based on guest availability, things are always changing.comic templte3bcomic templte3eAcross town
What has been your experience having to deal with a bunch of celebs from many different walks of life over the years? It seems, at least in front of the scenes, everything has been pretty laid back and welcoming.

Yes, I have to say that it’s been nothing but positive experiences with our guests. We are very happy that we get to create an opportunity for fans to meet people they look up to. They get to interact and see that they are human, too.

The Con has the staggering task of trying to cater to many different fan bases with new ones cropping up all the time. How do you find ways to meet the need to have as much fan bases represented as possible?

What we aim is to be as diverse as possible with our offerings. We’re big on themes, like Doctor Who this year, but we try not to have it dominate the guest list. One of our goals is to introduce new elements, but also keep some familiar ones. We basically keep our ear to the ground and hope that we’ve got the recipe right, and try to improve on it the following year.comic templte3dMeanwhile_lettering_b
Was there a moment either when booking somebody or, as you often do, on stage with a guest where you have had your geek out moment of “I can’t believe…”?

Oh, big time! Last year, I couldn’t believe I was on stage with Billie Piper from Doctor Who. She is such a lovely person. Most of the time, I get the feeling after, though. Like having a short backstage conversation with Gillian Anderson or Levar Burton, and then only it sinking in several days after the con.

Some Cons have started bringing in sports icons and wrestlers to the event. Any future plans to expand that way?

We’re not opposed to it. Though we did try to bring in wrestlers at Pop Expo (our Fall event) with a middling response. As the con grows, we hope that the building will be able to as well, and we’ll be able to test the waters with new elements.

What are you excited for in relation to this year’s Con?

One of the things I am most excited about is the OVMF Concert on Friday night. That’s 50 musicians on stage playing music from Star Wars, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones and more. That will be the juice that will keep me going for the whole weekend and beyond. Also, being a comics fan, meeting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle co-creator Kevin Eastman will be pretty gnarly, dude!comic templte3ccomic templtegBut the story doesn’t end there!

Break out you masks and capes because there’s still and entire day left of Comiccon 2016 with workshops, panels and celebrity Q&As. Sunday tickets are available online.

A super, turbo-charged, wibbly-wobbly, warp speed thanks to: Cliff Caporale, Billy Dee Williams, Lou Ferrigno, Kory Thielemann, Ryan Mathieson and The Final Frontier beer, Kevin Eastman, SV Bell at Black Flag TV, Catherine Burt at Peekaboo Cosplay, and Mike Sullivan (aka: Bus Superman) for some fantastic interviews. Also a thanks to The League of Super Heroes, Anja Takea, Tabula Rasa Cosplay, Mike Grell, the Doctor Who Society of Canada (Ottawa Chapter), Christian Richard Brousseau, China Doll, Open Shutter Photo, Dave Ross and Modulicious as well as the fine folks at the Old Fashioned Fudge booth (congrats on 40 years!). A big shout out to all the volunteers and staff at Ottawa Comiccon 2016 for being so helpful and, of course, to all the Cosplayers who graciously posed for pictures. Your creativity and imagination continues to astound. Excelsior!

Five Unique Ways to Enjoy Ottawa’s Nightlife

May 2, 2016 1:04 pm

Clubbing and bars not your thing? Fortunately, Ottawa has so much more going on once the sun goes down. From fantastic quick food to quirky stops downtown, there’s always a way to turn your evening into a blast. We have a list of five off-the-wall things you can try in the city this weekend, no pints required.

roulette-1253626_1280 (1)1. Go Gaming

If you’re looking for something with higher stakes than the average night out, both Ottawa and Gatineau have great gaming options. If you head south you’ll find the Rideau Carleton Entertainment Centre, and just across the river is the swanky Casino Lac Leamy.
If an exciting night in is more your speed though, where the food, the drinks and the vibe are all up to you, then Casino.com is your best gaming option. Just follow the rainbow and get welcome bonus for your first try.

House of Targ-8

Photo by Andre Gagne.

2. Play Pinball at House of Targ

House of Targ isn’t for everyone, but those who dig it are fans for life. Settled into a basement just beside bank street, Targ is always full of the sound of pinball machines, old-school arcade games and perogies sizzling. The atmosphere is a great combination of chill and fun, and every few minutes one of the staff uses a microphone to call out that the next person’s order of perogies are ready. The wait for your own name to be called is intense.
So grab a drink, find a game and make sure to bring some change.


Photo by Erin Noseworthy.

3. Go out for Tacos

Ottawa is being recognized more and more as a city that offers some fantastic snacks, and no quick-bite is shining brighter than tacos. Some of the biggest buzz has been surrounding the tacos from El Camino on Elgin Street. You can order them with a bigger meal or just grab them at the takeout window, but either way, these tacos will surprise you. There are a ton of choices, including the basics like pork or chicken and some out of this world options like Japanese eggplant and Ox tongue.

Sidedoor Contemporary Kitchen has slightly more upscale tacos, which cost about $9.50 for two pieces. They’re worth the cost though, as each one comes in a deliciously soft shell and inside you’ll find a constellation of interesting flavours. The Bajan crispy-fish are a must try.

If you’re looking for classic tacos that are a little more economical, Corazon De Maiz in the market or Nacho Cartel in Sandy Hill won’t leave you disappointed.


Photo by Eric Murphy.

4. Do a Haunted Walk

Do ghosts get your heart racing? Ottawa has downtown tours that go in and around some of the city’s spookiest locales. The Haunted Walk of Ottawa has experienced guides that will take you from Sparks Street through the heart of the ByWard Market and even into the Ottawa Jail Hostel. Once called the Carleton County Jail, the hostel is the site of three executions and is often considered one of the most haunted buildings in North America.

5. Play Some Board Games

Many locals don’t know that Ottawa has not one but two fantastic board game cafes downtown.

You can find Monopolatte on Somerset Street just on the edge of China town. Inside is a quirky and colourful café with just about every board game you can imagine stacked on the shelves. The servers are friendly and have an encyclopedic knowledge of how to play each game they offer.

A more casual alternative to Monopolatte is The Loft, a board game lounge just outside of the University of Ottawa. The décor alone is a good enough reason to visit. The Loft has a gorgeous hardwood floor set beneath gigantic wooden beams that crisscross the ceiling. The old stone walls are only interrupted by an enormous mural and floor-to-ceiling shelves that hold up their massive collection of games. So if your weekend goal is to cozy up to a fireplace and get your scrabble on, this is the place to visit.

Get Your Geek On!

April 9, 2016 9:01 pm

All photos by Andre Gagne.

Lock up your Tardis and park your DeLorean because there’s still time to get your geek on this weekend at the 2016 Ottawa Geek Market and Capital Gaming Expo at the Nepean Sportsplex. Where else are you going to see the Hulk hobnobbing with Hobbits, Chewbacca exchanging grooming tips with Dumbledore or Batman sharing a java with Papa Smurf?

Stacey Young, Co-Founder and Lead Organizer of the Geek Market, had been playing board games for as long as she could remember when she got the idea to turn it into a hobby. She started making jewellery out of the game pieces to sell at a few local events but soon realized that there should be more areas that catered to the type of pop-culture merchandise she enjoyed crafting.

The wheels where turning faster than the Millennium Flacon jumping to light speed. Young, who is disabled and unable to actually be out much due to severe chemical sensitivities and fragrance allergies, needed some help. Who you gonna’ call? No, not the Ghostbusters but your friendly neighborhood Lego dealer, Karen Fraser. The two put their heads together and the Geek Market started to take shape.

Catherine Burt of Peekaboo Cosplay

Catherine Burt of Peekaboo Cosplay

“It’s surprising just how much work goes into organizing an event. Everything takes longer than you expect and there are a lot of logistics to consider,” explains Young. “Each facility that we’ve held our event at has very different rules and requirements. Each floor plan needs to be carefully considered to make sure that the flow of traffic is right, that the right exhibitors are mixed in together, and that it visually looks good.”

Young wanted to ensure the Geek Market was something different than some of the other events of this nature that come to the city. Where conventions like ComicCon and Pop Expo bring in big name celebrities for Q&A’s, photo ops and autograph sessions, Young wanted the market to focus mainly on shopping while simultaneously allowing an affordable place for the cosplaying, gaming and local fandom groups to converge.

This year cosplay is taking centre stage with various events devoted to the ever-expanding culture. After you’ve filled your shopping bag full of T-shirts, comics, games and collectibles you can take in a panel on cosplay basics, see the various creations at the market’s formal masquerade or meet one of the cosplay guests.

“I fell in love with the workmanship of it,” says one such guest, Catherine Burt of Peekaboo Cosplay, on why she started cosplaying. She’s created stunning renditions of the wicked Maleficent as well as the wholesome Glinda of Oz, to name a few. “For a lot of people it’s about becoming the character. They see a character and fall in love with the movie or show and they want to be able to become that. It started out that way for me but now I enjoy the challenge of actually creating these things.”

When it comes to cosplay some might wonder just where to begin within a culture that seems to have limitless avenues to pursue. Whether you’re are an enthusiast, masquerade master or simply just cos-curious, Comic Girl Cosplay was ready with a few tips at her workshop.

“Makeup is not only for female cosplayers,” she told the crowd that had gathered also suggesting they do a lot of research, embrace costume creation failures, not underestimate the finds to be discovered at thrift stores and consider the amount of time and finance they want to put into their creations. The right pose, she adds, is also important. “Even potatoes can look great in photos with the right posing. Just look at French fries!”


Some of the items available at the 2016 Ottawa Geek Market.

Across the hall patrons can visit the Capital Gaming Expo where everything from video games, board games, tabletop RPGs and LARPing are represented.  No longer just inside the pages of a Harry Potter book, here you can also find out how to join a local Quidditch team.

“We play Muggle Quidditch so we don’t use magic,” explains Alex Naftel of the Carleton Ravens. “We’ve had to adapt a lot of the original things from the Harry Potter sport so we could play it.”


Visit the Market, you must.

The Geek Market has included a charitable element from the beginning having raised funds for the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre at past events. It also offers the Ottawa Geek Market Arts Scholarships.

“At the last event we supported visual arts and gave out three $1,000 scholarships. One for cosplay, one for sculpture, and one for drawing”, Young says. “This event we’re supporting the written word and have three categories again: horror, sci-fi, and fantasy.”

With a constant flow of panels and games, a green screen photo booth, the wide assortment of different merchandise tables and a Geek Quest Scavenger Hunt, there’s really something for the whole family to enjoy and this year admission is $2 less on Sunday if you come in costume. Looking around the Nepean Sportsplex this weekend you can see Ottawans have no problem donning some capes, tights, faux fur, masks and makeup.

“Ottawans have always been geeky,” says Young. “It’s just becoming more accepted and mainstream. I’ve considered myself a geek most of my life and I’m happy to see so many others embrace this part of who they are.”

The Geek Market opens up again Sunday morning April 10 from 10-5. Admission is free for children under the age of 12.

Weekend What’s Up – April 8th to 10th

April 8, 2016 12:49 pm
Weekend Roundup-01

Here at Ottawa Life, we are always looking out for great things to do on a weekend! Check out some of the events that are happening right here in our city.

St. Joseph’s Church, Ottawa University Orchestra, Friday April 8th (8:00 p.m.) 

Orch Brass

Go out to support our local talent by attending the uOttawa Orchestra event. Alain Trudel conducts the well-practiced students as they showcase their abilities as individuals and as a group. Enjoy the show!

2452 Yorks Corners Road, Stanley’s Olde Maple Lane, Friday April 8th to Sunday April 10th (9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.) 

downloadDon’t miss out while the pancakes are still hot! This is the last weekend to take in the amazing outdoor experience full of Canadian culture and family fun! The Sugar Bush is the best way to spend a spring weekend. Enjoy a pancake breakfast, sleigh rides through the forest and delicious maple treats in this beautiful setting. But don’t forget the biggest part! You can learn about and be a part of the sap to syrup making process! See you there.

Greely Community Centre, Beauty and the Beast, Friday April 8 to Sunday April 10 (Assorted times)Nice and Nasty

You’ve watched it, you’ve loved it, and now it’s time to see it all over again in a whole new light. The academy award winning Disney animation is being put on by the Greely Players. The production stars Violet Wyche as Belle and Evan Haydon-Selkirk as The Beast. Be their guest as you watch a fun show that will bring a smile to any Disney-lover’s face.

Bronson Centre Theatre, The Dandy Warhols, Saturday April 9 (8:00 p.m.)

Get ready to rock out with The Dandy Warhols this weekend. The band was formed in 1994 in ever-quirky Portland, Oregon and is made up of Courtney Taylor-Taylor, Peter Hölmstrom, Zia McCabe, and Brent DeBoer. Rock on and rock out at the Bronson Centre Theatre this Saturday night!

12802974_905607352894168_3495795490639184554_nHorticulture Lansdowne, PROMdemonium, Saturday April 9 (8:00 p.m. – midnight)

This will be the craziest prom you have ever been to, or maybe even your first one yet. PROMdemonium promises to be a funky, upbeat, fishnet stocking-filled night; what more could you ask for? So go on and dig out that old prom dress and crazy tie you know you have in the back of the closet. Plus when you purchase a ticket, you are supporting local causes such as Ningoshkoz and Roots

Centrepointe Theatre, Just For Laughs Road Show, Sunday April 10 (8:00 p.m.)Hi 300 x100

Get ready to laugh until your stomach hurts. This is Just For Laughs’ 13th year touring Ontario, and there’s a reason they keep coming back. This year the show will be hosted by comedian Ivan Decker and will feature some laugh-out-loud stand up comedy by Graham Chittenden, Gina Brillon, and Jon Reep.

EY Centre, The Cottage and Backyard Show, Friday April 8th to Sunday April 10th (Assorted Times) 


Get yourself into the outdoor mindset, even if the weather won’t co-operate. The show is a great opportunity to get inspiration for your outdoor life this upcoming season. The show has the latest and best trends to make your cottage and/or backyard the best it can be. But that’s not all, celebrity speakers such as HGTV host of four different television series, Paul Lafrance, and host of Cottage Life TV’s Reno my Reno, Dave Depencier, will be discussing their years of renovation experience to help kick-start the renovation season. Don’t miss out on all of the amazing deals and opportunities to revamp your outdoor living lifestyle!

Nepean Sportsplex, Capital Gaming Expo, Friday April 8th to Sunday April 10th (Assorted Times)

Don’t miss out on the chance to experience Canada’s largest gaming expo! Almost any kind of game you can imagine will be featured and you can share it all with game lovers just like you. They have everything from video games, board games, collectible card games to LARPing games.  Not only can you see and buy a whole bunch of awesome games, you can also participate in workshops, tournaments and a formal masquerade!


Recent Posts