Kingston Arts Council hosts Skeleton Park Arts Festival's tenth anniversary

Kingston’s Skeleton Park Arts Festival has come a long way since it was a neighbourhood solstice party.  

This year’s event — marking the festival’s 10-year anniversary — was held in Skeleton Park along with other venues, including The Toucan, The Sleepless Goat and the streets of Kingston. 

 The festival’s big day

Skeleton Park transformed into an arts haven on June 20, attracting hundreds of community members.  The festival’s biggest day came on that Saturday, when jewelry and crafting booths, theatre companies and festivals were among the variety of local arts groups and businesses that filled Skeleton Park.  

From 10 a.m. until midnight that Saturday, local arts groups set up booths in the park to display and sell their work. A stage constructed for the event hosted musical events all afternoon. The Woodshed Orchestra was among these performers, with nine out of 12 members of the band present at the festival. The band plays a variety of funky and upbeat musical genres, either as an electric band or as a full brass band with a New Orleans jazz style. Last year, The Woodshed Orchestra played at The Skeleton Park Arts festival and Dave Clark, founder, drummer and vocalist of the band, emceed the festival’s main day.  The Woodshed Orchestra played three times at the festival this year. They opened the day with a collaborative performance with a local children performer, Gary Raspberry, and finished the festival with a performance at the Dancing in the Streets After Party.  Being from Toronto, Clark said he feels that Kingston has a strong appreciation for different arts groups within the Kingston community. “The Kingston arts community has a cornucopia of great artists,” Clark said. “I really love the scene in Kingston.” 

 The Porch Jazz Parade

The afternoon performance was part of one of the festival’s most unique events: The Porch Jazz Parade. During the parade, The Woodshed Orchestra led a crowd of about 50 people through the streets for musical performances on the porches of Kingston residents. The Porch Jazz Parade also featured Skeleton Park Arts Festival veterans Sheesham and Lotus & ‘Son.  The trio plays traditional folk music on banjos, fiddles and other old-fashioned instruments to revive the music of the past. Sitting on the porch of a yellow house on Bagot St., the band sounded and looked as if they stepped out of the age of ragtime music. Having played at almost every Skeleton Park Arts Festival for the last 10 years, the band has seen the evolution of the festival. Teilhard Frost, one of the original members of the band performing as Sheesham Crow, said the parade brings music to new audiences. “But the most exciting thing about this performance is that we take [music] to [the people],” Frost said. “People don’t come out as much anymore. So we say fine, we’re going to take it to you.” He said events like the Porch Jazz Parade make live music more accessible, and he hopes it encourages people to keep seeing live music. “[People need to] come out to see live music. The only way you can keep live music going is by coming out to see it,” Frost said.  Sam Allison, performing as Lotus Wight, said the festival and its events, like The Porch Jazz Parade, creates a strong sense of togetherness within the Kingston arts community.  “The arts community is strong here, but I’ve only seen it become stronger because of [the Skeleton Park Arts Festival],” said Allison. “It brings people together but the immediate response is just positivity.” 

 Dancing in the Streets after party

To conclude the festival, The Kingston Arts Council organized a street party on Princess St. between Wellington and King. Starting at 8 p.m. and lasting until midnight, the street party featured multiple bands including The Woodshed Orchestra, Sheesham & Lotus and ‘Son, The Lemon Bucket Orchestra, D’Harmo and The Silver Hearts. This year’s street party, themed Dancing in the Streets, stayed true to its promise to have people dancing all night. A very large group of people gathered in that evening to square dance and two-step to live music. The Sleepless Goat was open serving refreshments and acting as the streets stage.  “We have the ability to close the street and dance all over,” said Mariah Horner, ArtsSci ’15, and event manager for the downtown after party. “It’s going to be a really awesome community live art show of us celebrating the summer and the kind of spirit that Kingston has.”