I have tried to have few “destinations” in mind, particularly date specific ones. Once you’ve got an event to attend, everything you do, every place you go —and for how long you stay— then begins to revolve around getting “there” on time. Because of this additional pressure, you convince yourself, and anyone else you’ve stressed out, that the extra effort will be well worth it.
That said, it should have come as no surprise that my desire to see the Busker Festival in Halifax between July 31 and August 5 pretty much ruled every aspect of our trip from Philadelphia starting July 20. It also created great, unrealistic expectations.
With eager anticipation, we boarded the ferry in Dartmouth so that we could approach the Halifax wharf by boat as we had done in Quebec City last summer. Although not as spectacular as Quebec, arriving anywhere by boat feels special and so it was that hot July day.
In my vision of a Busker Festival, I had seen entertainers all over the city playing and performing in their natural habitat: on street corners, courtyards and plazas, in parks, subways and doorways, hoping to attract an audience to fill their hats and guitar cases. That is what we experienced with Quebec’s Buskers last year. Some were great and some only mediocre, but all put themselves out there and in doing so endeared us to them.
The organizers of the Halifax Busker Festival evidently had a different vision in mind. When we inquired at the visitors’ bureau, we were handed a map and a schedule of Busker performances. Yes, you heard right: schedule; and yes, acts performed on stages. There were five stages, each with three acts rotating every three hours for the six-day event. At the Bell Aliant stage, you could watch Reuben dotdotdot, formerly with Cirque de Soleil , do acrobatics on a 15 ft. pole at noon. At 2:00 you might segue over to the Summit Stage to hear Brother, whose ethereal rock music combined the unlikely trio of didgeridoo, bagpipes and drums. At 5:00 you could be part of the crowd at the WestJet stage where double-jointed Lisa Lottie whirled her battalion of hoola hoops while contorting her lovely body into a myriad of pretzel shapes. The 8:00 finale might find you watching Men in Coats, a busker team who has actually made it to late night TV.
My point is that this wasn’t a bunch of itinerant performers traveling from place to place, guided by the weather and life’s serendipity. This was a polished, invitation-only showcase of talent. And although the Halifax Busker Festival lacked the spontaneity I had expected, it ensured that the audience saw only the best of the best.