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Toronto International Circus Festival

Gary

by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams

The Threat of Rain…

Even though it was threatening to rain, my grandson and I (this was a boys’ adventure!) decided to head to Toronto! We were going to visit the Toronto International Circus Festival being held at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre. The Festival was a Centre and Zero Gravity Circus presentation. The drive to downtown Toronto was surprisingly free of heavy traffic! When we arrived at the Harbourfront the rain still hadn’t started, but it looked like it could start any minute! I foolishly thought it might pass us by, but that was not meant to be. After parking the car, we made our way into the nearest Centre building. The Harbourfront Centre is made up of a series of buildings, walkways and open areas and host a number of different events, some at the same time. We follow the Circus Festival signs until we came to the main information area. A large crowd of people were already milling area the building. With the immanent threat of rain, several of the events had to be reconsidered. Since many of the events and activities were to take place out side, some had to be cancelled while others needed to be moved to different venues. This was a Herculean task considering the number of people and events involved! We wanted to get more information on what was happening where, but the information staff was overwhelmed with enquiries. My grandson and I decided to wait until the staff was less busy, so a walk around the building was in order.

Waiting For Information…

This building was made up of a number rooms and theatres. Our first stop was the “Super Racer Design Zone”. This is where kids and adults are helped to design their own “Speed Racer”. Judging by the number of people in the room, this was a very popular activity! Our building explorations were interrupted by an opening in the information kiosk. We were given all the information we needed about the Festival, including the changes caused by the rain. Linda Liontis, media contact for the Centre, was extremely helpful. We were, of course, disappointed that some of the events were going to be cancelled, but considering the dangers caused by to rain to some of the acts, the cancellations were understandable! After we left Linda, we headed for the “Clowning Around Theatre”. Ventriloquist and props comedian, Tim Holland was already on stage. His comedy routine had captured the captured the audience. He had kids, both large and small, up on stage to help him with his act! His ventriloquist characters were very funny. All too soon Tim’s show was over and we had to move on! We left the theatre and moved into one of the hallways. The hallway was crowded with dangling art masks. All the kids, including my grandson, were interacting with the masks. Just off this hallway were two rooms full and I mean full, of dangling carved fish! The idea was to maneuver we way through the dangling fish without touching them. This was a near impossible task! Joys of laughter filled the air as kids and adults worked their way through the hundreds of dangling fish! Our laughter soon subsided when we decided to go outside. The rain had started…

Baby The Rain Must Fall…

We left the warmth and dryness of the building and made a mad dash for the nearest tent! The rain was falling quite heavily and the temperature had fallen considerably. The tent we ran for was just off to our left. It housed a LEGO display and LEGO building areas. The kids in the tent (young and old) were having a great time. We stayed in the tent a long as we could and then ventured outside. We have left our coats in the car, so we were both cold and wet! We now realized that leaving the coats was a big mistake, so we made our way back to the car to get them, warm and dry at last! We walked back to the main building and decided to investigate it. The first area we came to was the Craft Studio. Here artisans worked at their crafts while Harbourfront Centre visitors looked on from a walkway high above. Various mediums were used, including metals, ceramics and glass! It was wonderful to see such marvelous artisans at work! After completing our walk through of the Craft Studio, we realized that it was lunch time and that we hadn’t eaten! It was back outside into the cold and rain! The food was located in a tent outdoors! In the tent there were a number of different types of food being offered. We chose European style fajitas. They hit the spot! Now warmed by the food we decided to venture back outside and explore the outside area. We looked at one stage area, but it was empty due to the weather and change in venues. At the northwest corner of the open area a series of tents had been set up to house demonstrations and workshops. The first we came to was the “Fearless Balloon Genius” (yes, that’s what it said in the program!). Debbie, the “fearless balloon leader” showed everyone how to make “Crazy Balloon Animals”! The next tent was the “Thunder and Lightning Band”. Here “visitors were invited to make their own thundering, awe-inspiring soundscapes”! Beside Thunder and Lightning was the “Juggling Workshop”. Expert jugglers patiently showed visitors the fine art of juggling. The final tent housed “WATER KITES”. I was not exactly sure what they were making, but it looked like a lot of fun! From the area we made our way back to the main building. We had hoped to see another show it one of the building theatres, but the scheduling was off and it would have meant missing part of the main show. Even though there was some time to wait, we decided to make our way to the Queen’s Quay Terminal building. This is where the main show was going to take place. Along the way to the Terminal building, we stopped at the Harbourfront “Bounty” Gift Shop. The store offered an amazing selection of artisan gifts. After leaving the “Bounty”, we made our way to the Queen’s Quay Terminal and the “Really Big Show”…

The Big Show…

With the rain forcing the rescheduling and reorganization of most of the day’s events, the main attractions were moved to the Queen’s Quay Terminal building. The building was built in 1926 as a warehouse and converted to shops and condominiums in 1983. I believe that this was one of the first warehouse conversions on Toronto’s harbourfront. The main floor is made up of meandering corridors and funky shops. At the south end of the building is a large open atrium area which features escalators to the second floor and outside elevations rising to the top floors. This was where the main performances were to take place! People started to arrive early to secure a preferred vantage point. My grandson and I secured our spot along side one of the three reflecting pools. We then waited for the show to begin. After quite some time Fesso, the clown, came out to MC the show and prepare the audience for the upcoming performances. Hundreds of people surrounded the staging area! Finally the show started and was kicked off by two beautiful contortionists. These wonderful performers moved their bodies with grace and agility. The next performers were filled with energy as they amazed the audience with near impossible gymnastics. The third performer was dressed in a black outfit with a mask on the top of his head! The whole effect made him have a monkey-like appearance. His balancing skills were truly awesome! The fourth and final performers were aerialists. Three sets of cloth ribbons had been attached high above to ceiling beams. In unison the three aerialists smoothly climbed the cloth ribbons. There, high above the crowd they began their performance! Breathtakingly they rolled and tumbled held only by the ribbons of cloth. The crowd was mesmerized by the performance. This was a wonderful way to end an amazing show and a great day at the Toronto International Circus Festival. It would have been interesting to see these performers as originally planned, but I am glad we stayed to see the rescheduled show!

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