London, Ont. Summer season festivals are gearing up for the long-awaited return to the center of the inside metropolis – London


With warmer months just around the corner, with improving COVID-19 health indicators and with the easing of pandemic restrictions, festival organizers in London, Ont. are preparing for an expected return to the city center for the 2022 summer festival season.

The London Children’s Festival, Food and Craft Beer Festival, Home County Music and Art Festival, RibFest, Rock the Park, Pride London Festival and Sunfest will all return with in-person events this summer after two years of cancelling, plans Downsized or virtual offerings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, festival organizers told Global News.

Aside from RibFest, the downtown festivals did not take place in person in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 concerns and provincial restrictions. Last year a scaled down RibFest was held with fewer park vendors and no halfway rides.

“I think the jobs that these three events will create are very exciting for us,” said Doug Hillier, President of Family Shows Canada, which hosts the Children’s Festival, Food and Craft Beer Festival and RibFest.

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“We know that people want to work, and we also know that people want to party. So we’re going to put it all together, and this year is going to be the year… I think we’re going to be very good at the festivals this year, we’re going to have a lot of fun and a lot of new vendors.”

The London Children’s Festival is among Victoria Park’s previous summer festivals, taking place from 17th to 19th June, while the London Food and Craft Beer Festival takes place from 24th to 26th June and the RibFest from 28th July to 1st August . Vendor and volunteer applications are currently open.

Hillier said organizers learned a lot from hosting the 2021 edition of RibFest, which came two weeks after the province approved such gatherings.

“I think the precautions we got used to at last year’s RibFest weren’t that difficult to manage and we’ll be doing the same. We will encourage people to stay safe and do whatever the city and the health department ask of us,” he said.

Oh hey sun festival! We missed you! #ldnont

— Sunfest London (@SunfestLDN) March 2, 2022

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The Home County Music and Art Festival and Sunfest also make long-awaited returns to Victoria Park this year. Both festivals have implemented virtual programs during the pandemic.

Of the two, Sunfest will start first and take place on July 7-10, while Home County will take place the following weekend on July 15-17.

“It’s such a breath of fresh air … It feels rejuvenating to have this on the horizon and it’s really awesome, it ignites a lot of energy within the organization and everyone involved,” said Tim Fraser, Home County artistic director since 2019 .

This year marks the 47th edition of Home County, excluding the virtual events in 2020 and 2021.

“It feels like life could just seem a little more normal, which is strange given the state of many things around the world. But for our little corner of life it’s a breath of fresh air to plan and organize and look forward to a really good weekend at Victoria Park,” Fraser said.

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Alanis Morissette headlining day one of Rock the Park 2022 in London, Ontario.

Details on who is expected to take the stage at Home County and Sunfest remain limited. Fraser says announcements for Home County will come later in the spring, noting that among the diverse Canadian talent lined up so far, there will be something for everyone.

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“I am very happy and proud of the lineup we have put together for this year. There are a lot of phenomenal, phenomenal artists that are coming to the park or that we plan to bring to the park this year,” he said.

Outside of Victoria Park, Rock the Park will return to Harris Park for the first time since 2019, with headliners Alanis Morissette, The Glorious Sons and TLC.

Pride London parade in 2018.

Pride London parade in 2018.

Jaclyn Carbone/980 CFPL

The annual Pride London festival will also make an in-person comeback this year, but not at its usual venue in Victoria Park, where it has been held since 2010.

Instead, organizers say the festival, set to take place from July 14-24, will move its three-day downtown celebrations to nearby Dundas Place, specifically between Richmond and Ridout.

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“We just felt it was time for a little change,” said Stephen D’Amelio, Vice President of the Pride London Festival.

“We also felt this was a great way to bring our community a little bit closer and ensure we reflect the way the city has changed over the past few years. We also thought it was a fantastic opportunity to take advantage of the new Flex Street and Dundas Place for ourselves.”

As with Home County and Sunfest, public details on the festival’s entertainment remain limited, but D’Amelio says the acts will all be Canadian, noting that organizers are excited to see some of the “bigger headliners” to be announced by June 1. Entertainment applications are available online.

The festival, now in its 42nd year, also marks the return of the London Pride Parade which will conclude the festival on July 24, starting at the Western Fairgrounds and ending at Dundas Place. An exact route will be published closer to the date. Parade applications are also available.

“That was something that the current President (Debbie Abdalla) got very involved in and made us try again to bring all aspects of our fellowship together,” D’Amelio said.

“Our theme this year is actually ‘let’s hug’. Like I said, we really wanted to make sure we were focused on bringing the community back together and be happy that we can do that personally.”

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All three spoke about the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their festivals and the vendors they work with and the ways they have had to adapt.

“Many of our organizations, our partners, including RBC, TD and the Ontario government, have gotten involved and made sure we can continue to receive funding,” D’Amelio said.

“This year we’ve seen some excitement. Some of our traditional partners have already stepped up and some new partners are showing interest and trying to move Pride London forward.”

Like other festivals, D’Amelio said Pride London has made a digital pivot during the pandemic, launching a local streaming service dedicated to LGBTQ2 programming, the Pride London Network, early last year.

“This year has been it… I think everyone can agree that we’re really looking forward to coming back… It’s been a unique challenge for the past two years. But we have tried to adapt and continue to entertain, educate and celebrate our community in the best possible way.”

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At Family Shows Canada, Hillier said the pandemic has affected a number of her clients. Some, like their previous Midway operator, have had to close their doors forever.

“We’re among the lucky ones who are still here,” he said.

“A lot of new hires come on board and decide that that’s what they want to do, and that’s fantastic. So there’s a lot of changes, but you know, we’re rolling the punches and we’ve been hit pretty hard, but we’re coming back and we’re ready to fight.

For Home County, Fraser says a rainy day fund, community donations and some virtual events have allowed the festival to get through the past two years.

“Fortunately, we were able to ensure that this didn’t completely shatter the organization to the point where we had to collapse,” as others have had to, he said. “It’s been really tough morally for everyone because that’s what we love to do, we love doing these events for the community.”

“The organization would not exist without the support of the London community and surrounding communities at large. I mean ‘home’ in Home County stands for Huron, Oxford, Middlesex and Elgin, so we have very strong roots in this area and without the support of the surrounding communities we wouldn’t be able to do what we do .”

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For more details and future announcements, visit the London Children’s Festival, Food and Craft Beer Festival, Home County Music and Art Festival, RibFests, Rock the Parks, Pride London Festivals and Sunfests websites

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