4 Weeks, 10 Fests: Your July Festivals Guide

By Jordan Whitehouse

The Kingston festivals lineup is stacked this July. Starting with Canada’s birthday, and packed with long-time faves like Artfest, Buskers Rendezvous and a guitar festival, there shouldn’t be a miss this month. A Taste of Kingston returns, too, as do the CORK sailing regattas. And don’t forget: the outdoor movies in Market Square continue on Thursday nights (Jurassic World, on July 14, tops my list).


Canada Day in Kingston, July 1

Photo by Marcus Jeffrey, Flickr
Photo by Marcus Jeffrey, Flickr

Canada turns 149 years young this year, and as always the first capital of the Province of Canada is throwing one big party. Out on Highway 2, Grass Creek Park has free music, beach volleyball, kids activities and a beach, while downtown there’s the Limestone Mile marathon, people parade, live music, wagon rides and, of course, fireworks (here are the best spots to see them). cityofkingston.ca; downtownkingston.ca

Artfest, July 1 – 3

Artfest Kingston
Artfest Kingston

Whatever medium you’re into, the 5th annual Artfest likely has it covered: pottery, glass, wood, jewellery, gourmet food, live music, outdoor theatre, poetry — you name it. About 150 artists and artisans from Ontario and Quebec will be there this Canada Day weekend, all offering up plenty to buy and browse along the shady paths of City Park. Free admission. artfestontario.com


#DKShopFest, July 2


I’ll skip the typical cliché, but you might actually drop at this shop fest all over downtown. Merchants will have tables out on the sidewalks, and most will have some type of special or discount. In other words, where comfortable shoes (or buy some there). If you do drop, come back later with a $100 gift card you won by tagging photos with #DKShopFest. downtownkingston.ca 

Kingston Buskers Rendezvous, July 7 – 10


This is the only time and place in Kingston to watch knife jugglers, flame swallowers, contortionists and almost any other countercultural busker you can think of — or can’t — do their thing. Most perform in Market Square and Confederation Park or on Princess, Sydenham or Ontario Streets. Admission is free but tip the hat, cheapskate. downtownkingston.ca

I Feel the Winds Festival, July 11 – 16

Photo by Michael Pereckas, Flickr
Photo by Michael Pereckas, Flickr

This is the Royal Canadian College of Organists’ national convention, but anyone wanting to listen to and learn about these “Kings of Instruments” is invited. Look out for concerts featuring international artists, workshops, exhibits, a banquet and boat cruise on the St. Lawrence, tours of Kingston’s heritage sites, and more. Stay tuned to the website for up-to-date lineups. kingstonfestival2016.ca

The Kick & Push Festival, July 15 – August 13

Beneath Our Feet, Photo by Stoo Metz
Beneath Our Feet, Photo by Stoo Metz

Don’t expect simple stage productions from this 2nd annual collaborative theatre fest. Think more immersive experiences like a performance in an alley or a play in a jazz club where the servers are the actors. You can brush up on your acting chops at workshops here, too, and check out the new Storefront Festival (July 15 – 23) featuring new and emerging artists. thekickandpush.com

Canadian Guitar Festival, July 22 – 24

Photo by Nathan Phillips, Flickr
Photo by Nathan Phillips, Flickr

For 12 seasons now, some of the best fingerstyle guitar masters in the world have played this festival on the banks of Loughborough Lake (8 km north of Kinston). Set on a 48-acre campground in a 10,000 square-foot concert hall with retractable side walls, it also has food and bevvy vendors, a lobster dinner Saturday night, and camping. Bring a chair. Day and weekend passes available. canadianguitarfestival.com

CORK Sailing Regatta, July 22 – 24

Photo by Queen's University, Flickr
Photo by Queen’s University, Flickr

Every summer, Kingston’s waterfront fills with 1000-plus sailboats and crews from around the world. They’re here for the Canadian Olympic-training Regatta, Kingston (CORK), a multi-class competition and training event that kicks off this month with the Etchells Canadian Championship and the Olson 30 North American Championship. Hit the waterfront or head to Portsmouth Olympic Harbour to see who wins. cork.org

A Taste of Kingston, July 24, 10 am – 3 pm

Photo by LexnGer, Flickr

Come hungry to Confederation Park for a sampling of culinary creations from some of Kingston’s top eateries, each with its own booth. Tasting tickets are $1 each (number of tickets varies by vendor), and proceeds support the Canadian Diabetes Association. There will also be live music, inflatable fun for kids, a “Best of Taste” comp and more. diabetes.ca


Princess Street Promenade, July 30

Photo by Robin Dawes, Flickr
Photo by Robin Dawes, Flickr

Take back K-Town’s main drag for one day at this always popular street fest where Princess Street is closed from Ontario to Division Streets. Expect summer eats, cold beverages, kid-friendly fun, and lots of surprises, like last years’ electric car show. All of it is a way to support downtown businesses, community involvement and active, sustainable transportation. downtownkingston.ca