Artfest Ontario


by Festival Nomad “Scoop” Correspondent, Judi McWilliams

Artfest Ontario creates and manages a number of art festivals in Ontario. The following article describes two, Artfest at the Distillery ~ Toronto and Artfest Kingston. We have had the pleasure of visiting and exploring both.


Artfest at the Distillery ~ Toronto

Driving into Downtown Toronto looks likes an explosion of massive concrete buildings popping up everywhere! Choosing to drive into the City just after the morning rush hour was a wise choice. Touch wood (somewhere), we arrived at the Harbourfront in record time.

With the Festival Nomads patience, and luck, we found a great parking spot, right near the entrance of Artfest at the Distillery.

Artfest, both in Kingston and Toronto, is one of the best open-aired, free juried art shows we have seen in a long time. The organizer and show producer, Lory MacDonald, has the knack of attracting the elite of the elite, with quality, variety and yet affordable artisan and art items for all.

There was no doubt we had arrived at the right location as rows of white tents and lots of signs welcomed us. The cobblestone walkways made the ambiance more intriguing. In amongst the Artfest tents lay unique shops, cafes, boutiques, flower pots and gardens.

High above were connecting ducts painted green, running between the red brick buildings. The architecture and historical aspect of this part of Toronto was very interesting.

We were on a mission to find Lory, to let her know we had made it down. True to form, Lory welcomed us warmly. Unfortunately she was laid up with a cast on her foot, but that did not deter her from giving us a wonderful opportunity to “walk” the show with her.

Lory introduced us to many of the artists and artisans. The quality and variety that these talented artists produce is by far “top notch”! Celebrating summer in Toronto and the arts, 65 artists & artisans, from across Canada, gathered at the Historic Distillery District for three days only.

These artists and artisans offered hand-made Canadian pottery, glass, leather, jewelry, gourmet food, textiles paintings, live music and more. They were eager to share some of their techniques and describe the makings of their treasures.

Various spots along the way provided us with entertaining and enjoyable music. High quality food vendors also display, demonstrate and share their produce at Artfest. One of the vendors recognized our Ontario Visited hats and commentated that she knew about us! Surprised, we asked how she knew us. She told us that she subscribed to our monthly newsletter and that she read them faithfully!

On our travels throughout Ontario this past summer, we were often  approached by event participants and vendors, who recognized our Ontario Visited hats and shirts. It’s a wonderful feeling to be recognized and appreciated!



Artfest Kingston

Art show producer Lory MacDonald had invited us to attend this year’s Artfest Kingston. It’s funny that many, many years ago I myself participated in an art show at the same park in Kingston.

The show I participated in was small, poorly organized and poorly attended. We know Kingston is a beautiful place to visit and we were excited to see what this Artfest Kingston had to offer.

The Festival Nomad continues to amaze me with his perseverance (or luck). When we arrived, although early in the day, parking seemed to full around the perimeters. I expected to park far away, but Gary did his typical “positive thinking” and drove right up to the main entrance, made a 3-point turn and parked. What a relief!

What amazed me about this particular art show, after exiting the car, was the Artfest’s site. I was immediately in awe at how appropriate the park was for an art show. I have only been to two other events, that I can remember, that resemble the ambiance of Artfest’s setting, the Winona Peach Festival and the Cabbagetown Festival of the Arts.

The neat rows of tents that filled the tree-lined park produced a riot of colours and images. We wanted to find organizer Lory but were unsure of which path to take. After asking a few folks of how to find her, I decided to do the logical thing and phoned Lory. We discovered that her location was at the other end of the park.

Lory, if you ever have the chance to meet her, is the “consummate” art show organizer! She personally knows all of the artisans and artists and vendors who attend her shows and treats them with respect and friendliness! It is no surprise that when we finally met up with her that she immediately asked us if we would like to join her in a walk about of the festival grounds.

As we passed each vendor, Lory was greeted enthusiastically as a long lost friend. She made sure that she introduced us to everyone. Not only did they greet her, but Lory made sure that we felt at home. We thought that Lory would make her exist and we would explore on our own, but Lory stayed with us and gave us so much quality time and insight into her festival.

It made for an amazing experience. We were truly impressed by the quality and uniqueness of the artisan works. One very unique feature of the event was the Artfestart wall“. The wall ran the length of the main art show with boards side by side about 4 feet by 8 feet.

Everyone attending the Artfest had an opportunity to join in the fun, grab a brush and add their “artistic flare” to the boards. They could express their own unique artistic genius on the wall. There were free organized art classes for the kids under a covered tent area out of the hot sun.

Lively music played on a stage at one end of the Artfest walkway along with a sampling of quality food booths. At the end of the tour, we reluctantly we left Lory and the Artfest and walked back to our car. It was no surprise that immediately upon pulling out, another “lucky” navigator pulled into our great spot. Their turn for a great day in the park at Artfest Kingston.

Leave a Reply