Culture, heritage and music were celebrated Saturday in Woodstock’s Victoria Park.
A relatively new festival in the city, Art in Victoria Park started in 2017 showcasing local artisans and entertainment.
“We wanted something a little different,” said Brad Janssen, Woodstock Communications and Special Events Manager, who set it up as a Canada 150 signature celebration.
“We thought we’d celebrate the arts, the culture that we enjoy in this town. We have so many fabulous heritage buildings, so we partnered with the museum, the art gallery, and the Oxford Historical Society.”
Victoria Park, formerly used as a fairgrounds and only a couple blocks north of Dundas Street, was a natural choice for their celebration of heritage, art and culture.
Recognizing an appetite for that type of celebration, Janssen approached City Council about a second Art in the Park.
“Last year it was on Labour Day weekend,” he noted, “because that’s when Pavlo was available. He’s back again this year with a bigger show – a very easy gentleman to work with, user friendly, and a fabulous entertainer. So we hit the road running and I moved it up to July 21st to gain more daylight for the tear-down and to get a little better weather. So it worked out well.
“When I talked to him, he said ‘I want to bring the big show,’ so he’s going to have a few guest musicians and surprises. He thoroughly enjoys entertaining, he really does. Just a lot of energy.”
With a mix of sun and clouds, and brief late afternoon showers, they had all types of weather Saturday between 2-9 p.m.
“It is what it is,” Janssen smiled. “We can put all the pieces of the puzzle together but the weather is something that you roll with.”
The dozen-plus artists and artisans displaying their work had a steady flow of visitors. Food trucks and a beverage garden kept people refreshed, and people set up lawn chairs to enjoy the live entertainment on stage.
“It’s a nice, simple setup. The park is fabulous to work with because everything is right in front of you. It turns out everybody really enjoys it.
“It’s a very under utilized park,” said Janssen, who grew up a block-and-a-half way, noting it had been used for Remembrance Day services.
“The first reaction we got from people was ‘what a great park, what a great setup.’ So you learn something every year and we tweaked a few things, and due to sponsorship for everything… it all came together. We learned a lot by the demographic that attended last year, so we catered to that from a marketing perspective, from an entertainment perspective, everything across the board.”
Monik Macias, from Mexico, led off Saturday’s entertainment, followed by Ecuadoran ensemble The Imbayakunas, Jimmy Stahl and a 17-piece orchestra, and Michael Vanhevel, an up and coming ‘crooner,’ and concluded with the headliner, Pavlo.
“And Bob Breen, Armor Pro, can’t say enough about his expertise,” Janssen added.
“Everybody buys in, and we put on a party. And it will only grow. We’re surveying, asking people what they like and what they can suggest and things like that. Moving forward it very much could be an ‘annual’ and when it becomes an annual, and people see the success, then sponsors come forward and it grows in that respect. But you start out with something that is manageable, kind of baby steps, and see it take off.”