In search of some room to grow, Epilepsy Toronto's annual fundraiser is moving away from the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood.
Silver Elvis, Marie Antoinette, a stilt walker, and a group of men in suits came together near Yonge-Dundas Square today to announce Scotiabank BuskerFest’s move to Yonge Street.
The annual outdoor festival—which takes place in late August—is a fundraiser for Epilepsy Toronto. Last year, its organizers say, it attracted over a million people.
“Epilepsy itself is often hidden and stigmatized, and we wanted something out there, and vibrant, and public,” said Epilepsy Toronto Executive Director Geoff Bobb. “We discovered this circuit of busker festivals, and we felt like that would be perfect. We brought that idea to the City, and they said that this is a community that would really get behind that, and that marrying it to a charity was a great sort of win-win.” BuskerFest was founded in 1999.
For the last several years, the festival has taken place in the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood, on Front Street between Yonge and Jarvis streets. A downside of its growth is that it’s now too big for the space.
“We were kind of busting at the seams,” said Robb. “We needed to expand, and the possibilities for that were limited, there was only so much you could squeeze. [Yonge Street] has oodles of room for growth. We can keep going north.”
“The Yonge Street [Business Improvement Association] was really enthusiastic in saying, ‘We want to do something to help you champion epilepsy,’ and have been opening all kinds of doors with the various businesses and retailers.”
This year’s festival will take place along Yonge, between Queen and College streets. Mark Garner, executive director for the Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Association, said that he was instantly on board with the idea.
“It seemed like a natural fit, based on the program and the space,” he said. “We sat down and had a long conversation as to the opportunities, and whether it was the right partnership. We found there are a lot of similar synergies.”
“We’re big on community building, and the work that Epilepsy Toronto does is phenomenal.”
Garner added that bringing BuskerFest to Yonge is another step toward turning the street into a more pedestrian-friendly environment. Last summer, the Downtown Yonge BIA made some progress in this regard with Celebrate Yonge, a month-long street festival.
“Seeing Yonge Street used as an urban environment for pedestrians is key,” he said. “It’s time to start looking at the street in a different way, and how it can be…used as an asset.”