Magnificent and Mesmerizing: Ottawa International Buskerfest

Photo credits: Aaron Hemens

From August 2-6, Sparks Street was home to a number of comedic and sometimes death-defying street acts from more than 25 street performers from around the globe for the 27th annual Ottawa International Buskerfest.

For nearly 10 hours each day, street performers—hailing from countries such as Argentina, Mexico, Australia and Japan—were spread out across five stages on Sparks Street, drawing “Oohs” and “Ahhs” from on-lookers as they swallowed flames or displayed gut-wrenching body contortions.

The spectacle attracted around 175,000 people, all welcome free of charge. Following their acts, however, performers invited audience members to donate a small sum of money for the entertainment they had provided.

“It doesn’t cost. I mean, if you go see some of these guys go do their show as part of bigger shows and circuses, their tickets could be $50,” said Brian Wilson, a producer for the festival.

“This is affordable. You could walk up and see shows. It’s totally accessible,” he added.

In addition to showcasing international talent, the festival also featured a number of local artists as well. Local street performer “Rockabilly Joe” kicked off the first day of the festival with his acrobatic skills and juggling tricks.

Described as “a circus artist and a street performer with a 1950’s twist,” Rockabilly Joe blasted old classics such as Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock” and Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World” while flipping over children pulled from the audience and juggling torches while riding a unicycle.

Another local street performer, who goes by the name of “Mr. Smith,” entertained audience members with his magic tricks and mind-boggling illusions. Whether it be pulling vanished cloths from the sleeves of young on-lookers, or pulling an audience member’s card from a shuffled deck, Mr. Smith knew exactly how to wow the crowd.

The show put on by “The Street Circus,” a group made up of Canadian couple Daniel and Kimberly Craig, featured a number of high-flying, acrobatic circus stunts that included handstands, spinning on a cyr wheel, hula hoops, and shocking body contortion.

During the evening shows, groups such as the “NorthFIRE Circus” from Toronto lit up Sparks Street (literally) with their carefully choreographed fire acts that consisted of fire hoops, engulfed poi swingers and flame consumption.

On the international level, Victor Rubilar, a “football freestyler” from Argentina with five Guinness World Records under his belt, left the crowd rolling with his absurd dancing and stripteasing. He also performed the routine that earned him the Guinness World Record for most soccer balls juggled, with the number of balls being five.

Reuben Dotdotdot, a former Cirque du Soleil performer from Australia, left on-lookers on the edge of their seats as he performed gravity defying stunts on a 17 ft. erected pole. At one point, audience members nervously watched in silence as the daredevil spun around the top of the pole with one hand.

Fraser Hooper, a silent street fighting clown from New Zealand, ended the final day with a comedic bang as he and an audience member staged a slow motion boxing match in front of hundreds of people, right in the middle of Sparks Street.