July 3 – 10
Festival 500 is a biennial celebration of choral music from Canada and from the rest of the world. This, its ninth year (Festival 516 wouldn’t have quite the same ring to it) is jam-packed with a week of choral shows, curating choirs from as far off as Angola, Belgium, and South Africa. Shows take place at George Street United, Arts & Culture Centre, DF Cook Recital Hall, and the fest is capped off with a big finale at Mile One on July 10.
July 3 – 7
While the 2013 Kelligrews Soiree might not have as many pig’s feet, boiled guineas, or crackie’s teeth as the rager in Johnny Burke’s ballad, it is a jam-packed smorgasbord of family-friendly events that run for four days in early July. No less than 23 separate events are taking place throughout the Conception Bay South area for the run of the Soiree, including fitness classes, beach activities, a Watch Your Bobber race, concerts, theatre shows, and more. Most events are free and they’re open to residents of CBS and visitors alike.
In the late-July twilight, as the sun creeps into the house of Leo, the long mellow slope of Victoria Park is transformed into a DIY Lite Brite display in one of the city’s most unique and beautiful summer festivals. The Victoria Park Lantern Festival is a community gathering focusing around homemade lanterns that light up the park like constellations. The festival also features community booths, family activities, workshops, and a barbeque. Lanterns are lit at dusk (the time of day, not the nightclub) but the festivities commence at 2pm. It all happens July 27.
Music at Harbourside
Fridays in July and August
Harbourside Park is a tiny east-downtown oasis abutting the harbour, boasting a set of interpretive storyboards, statuary homages to the Labrador retriever (one of Newfoundland’s most significant contributions to world civilization), and a killer view of the Narrows and Signal Hill. It also plays host to Music at Harbourside, a free weekly lunchtime concert series that runs on Fridays throughout July and August. Shows start at 12:30pm and end at 1:30pm, more than enough time to get back to the office. Each show features a headlining act and an up-and-coming opening act. This year’s lineup includes Ian Foster, Matthew Hornell, Nick “Lefty” Earle, Duane Andrews, and The Freels.
Mondays in July
Reel Downtown takes Monday blahs and says the heck with you. It’s a selection of al-fresco films that screen at dusk in the Fortis parking lot on Water Street. The calendar gods have graced us with a five-Monday month, so there will be five movie screenings. As anodyne as a nice smooth sip of Pepto Bismol, Waking Ned Devine kicks it off on July 1 while July 8 features a double-shot of local films, with Regarding Our Father and Return of the White Fleet. On July 15, catch Skyfall, the latest in the James Bond franchise. Speaking of James Bond, you can hear Pierce Brosnan murdering ABBA’s classic cuts in Mamma Mia on July 22. And on July 29, certified class Back To The Future will sail us all into August. Screenings start at dusk. Bring yer own lawn chair.
St. John’s Pride
July 15 – 21
Pride festivals have morphed from humble fringe events to venerable, joyful, must-attend celebrations that ripple far beyond the LGBT community. St. John’s Pride Week takes place in mid-July and features panel discussions, drag shows, a parade, a sports competition, and more. New this year is the Queer Theatre Festival, which features two performances, Short & Queer and The Queer Monologues.
Tombolo Multicultural Festival
July 12 – 14
If your summer travel plans don’t include voyages to exciting far-off countries, the next best thing is the Tombolo Multicultural Festival. It will be three days of music, dance, and entertainment by performers from the city’s diverse and vibrant immigrant community. There will also be arts and crafts for sale, authentic international cuisine, a multicultural workshop, a fashion show, and special children’s programming. Tombolo’s happening at the Arts & Culture Centre from 10am to 10pm each day with tickets available at the box office.
Shakespeare by the Sea
July and August
Shakespeare By The Sea holds their performances of the Bard’s masterpieces in outdoor locations. Entering its 21st year, this summer’s festival will feature Cymbeline and Julius Caesar, and a couple of non-Shakespeare pieces including The Curious Case in the Colony and Tunes and Tales of Pigeon Inlet.
Wreckhouse Jazz & Blues Festival
July 10 – 13
With a purview encompassing not one but two complex musical genres, Wreckhouse Jazz & Blues Festival is one ambitious affair. And its enormous ambitions are paying off, as the fest is well into its second decade of operation. For four days in July, venues around town will be taken over with the best that jazz and blues have to offer. Shows range from free lunchtime concerts at Rocket to international superstar headliner shows at the Arts & Culture Centre.
George Street Festival
August 1 – 6
George Street is just one of those places that inspire myths, legends, and who-cares-whether-it’s-trues. It may or may not have the most bars per square inch of any street in North America (who knows?). It may have been visited by Mayflower pilgrims on their way to Plymouth Rock (probably not). It doesn’t matter. The street itself more than lives up to the mythical hype. One of the biggest summer events is George Street Fest, six nights of live music on the fabled street. This year features Honeymoon Suite, Barenaked Ladies, Glass Tiger, George Thorogood & The Destroyers, Hey Rosetta!, and Great Big Sea. Tickets range from $22 to $44.50. You gotta be 19 or over to get on the street.
August 5 – 18
Tuckamore Festival, which takes its name from the gnarled little trees peculiar to the Newfoundland barrens, is a two-week celebration of classical music featuring concerts by international superstars and workshops for young musicians. Throughout the festival, a series of open rehearsals and master classes will give the public a behind-the-scenes glimpse at just what it takes to count yourself among the world’s finest chamber musicians.
Royal St. John’s Regatta
To an outsider, it might seem weird to get a day off for a sporting event, and it probably would be weird if the one in question didn’t have the same pedigree as the Royal St. John’s Regatta. But as it is, it’s North America’s oldest sporting event (unless you count the Yale University gnome toss or whatever they do down there). Seriously, the Regatta is closing in on its bicentennial, which will be celebrated in 2016. It’s probably the single summer event that best captures the essence of St. John’s—a day boil masquerading as a rowing competition, complete with deadly food vendors and games of chance. It’s not to be missed. The Regatta is scheduled for August 7, but that could very well change if the weather doesn’t co-operate.
August 9 – 11
From the medieval jongleurs to snake charming shows in India, and every point in between, humanity has had a serious craving for street-level live entertainment. Happily, the tradition is alive and well, and it’s celebrated in a three-day festival every summer in St. John’s. The Busker Festival curates performers from the province and from around the world in a series of free shows that happen at three venues downtown—the Fortis Building, the Fortis parking lot on Water Street, and out in front of Scotia Centre. Shows run from 1pm to 10pm. Don’t leave a busker hangin’, bring cash along with you.
NL Folk Fest
August 9 – 11
Bannerman Park is out of commission this summer, receiving a retrofit centering around the urban oasis’ prized gazebo, but fear not: Bowring Park is stepping up to host the 37th-annual Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Festival. The festival’s pastoral new digs will be the perfect backdrop for the lush and lively lineup this year. There’s a who’s-who of local artist playing, including Sherman Downey & The Ambiguous Case, plus Joel Plaskett, The Good Lovelies, and Mo Kenney.
Art Marathon Festival
August 15 – 18
The city’s most dynamic celebration of art is back with its 14th instalment this August. The Art Marathon Festival, organized by the artist-run Eastern Edge Gallery, has renewed focus this summer. For the first time, it revolves around a theme—the core focus of the festival is “dreamworlds”, and participants are invited to explore all aspects of this theme, whether utopias or dystopias, fantasies or delusions. In the past couple of years the festival’s duration sprawled to a full week in length, but this year’s is a concentrated affair, spanning four days in the middle of the month. It features workshops, concerts, art crawls, barbecues, and of course, the marathon itself—24 hours of art creation and entertainment at Eastern Edge Gallery.