Sunday, July 26, 2009

Elvis and Jazz

Every year I am torn by the need to attend two Music Festivals which are always on the same weekend. As I mentioned in a previous blog, in order to do this (and have a deserved weekend up north) the plan was to go to the Jazz Street Fest on Thursday night and then head up on Friday to the Elvis Event in Collingwood for the rest of the weekend. I did have to be back before Sunday noon, when I had promised to take Laura out to shop for a new dress for a wedding she is attending in a few weeks.

Unfortunately, the weather was not the best. Thursday was pouring rain and so I did not get out to the Jazz on that night. I did go up to Collingwood on Friday and the rain held off for the Friday night events and so I did get out to see the (literally) 112 - according to the web site - Elvi (the plural of Elvis is???) wandering the streets.

This is the 14th year that Collingwood has been hosting an Elvis Festival on the 3rd weekend of the month of July. Elvis tribute artists come from all across Canada to win the chance of competing in the Elvis contest. A large stage is set up on the main street where the preliminaries are held and everyone brings a lawn chair down to enjoy all the acts. Each Elvis gets to do one or two songs and it is a long slow happy time for everyone. A small town fair atmosphere prevails as in addtion there are Elvis tribute bands performing in each of the several beer gardens set up in the parking lots and blocked off side streets in the downtown core. There are consessions and a sales area and even a carney fair in another area.

From the Festival Web Page
  • Collingwood Elvis Festival is internationally recognized as the “largest Elvis Festival in the World” and the benchmark by which all other Elvis Festivals operate
  • The Festival was recognized as one of the two originally selected Preliminary locations for the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest in Memphis, TN.
  • Named one of the “Top 50/100 Festivals in Ontario” from 2001 to 2009 out of the over 3,000 Festivals throughout the province

The web site for the festival is well worth visiting, particularly the "Virtual Festival" page, which allows you to see a selection of Videos of past performances superimposed on an image of the Main Stage. Also, they have much better photos than I was able to take and if you go here - you can see a slide show of all the fun!

At the same site you can also see a slide show of the antique car parade that they had on the Saturday, just before the skys let go and it poured rain.

The main reason I wanted to get up to Collingwood on Friday night is that my friend John (from GopherBrokeFarm) plays in a band and they traditionally have a spot in one of the beer gardens on a side street. Barb and I always have a grand time at this event and this weekend was no exception. John's Band, Frankie and the Favourites, are really good, and while they are not an Elvis tribute band they purposefully have a full repertoire of songs from that era and as a well known local band they fit in spectacularly. I had a great time on Friday night.

Since the weather was looking iffy and also, truth be known, I am more of a Jazz fan than an Elvis fan, I decided to change plans mid day (after it started to pour rain) and drive down to Toronto in time (if the weather improved) to get out to the Street Fest on the Saturday night. It poured rain during the entire 2 hour drive to Toronto, but after dinner the sky cleared somewhat and with umbrella in hand I hopped on a street car and headed out to the Queen St. East area that runs parallel of the Toronto East Beaches. I used to live in this area several years ago and it is another fabulous Toronto community.

The weather once again cooperated with my evening plans and I was able to walk the entire length of the Festival Venue and take in all the bands. At least, I got to take in about half of the 50 bands, since they place bands so close - just out of range of each other each one on the corner of the next city block, alternating with a band set up on the other side of the same corner. This works given that each band needs to take a break and every other band on the length of the street is scheduled for intermission. Consequently, unless you do two passes of the street in alternate hours you will only see half of the bands. It is impossible to do two passes of the street in one night - maybe another year I will get there for two of the nights and be able to enjoy a taste of every band. Not to be for this year, though.

There is always one band playing in front of the Fire Hall. I snapped this photo of two firefighters who were out dancing to the music, who were, at the same time time, panhandling with their firefighter's boot in hand for the local children's charity. You can see the reflective strips on the parts of their uniforms they were wearing. In other years I have both seen the firefighters out on the firehall roof dancing the night away and also have seen them hustling back into the fire hall in response to a call which required the folks to make way for the firetruck so it could speed on its way.

My apologies for the poor lighting/contrast in this pic. It was near black and I used picasa to lighten it in order to expose the detail. It gives you some idea of the thick crowds that one needs to elbow past to get up close enough to see and to take a photo of any of the bands. Mostly I did not try to squeeze past people to get up front. Music and ambiance was wonderful from every where - ring side view of the band or not.

I did get up close with this band, which shows the typical set up for most of the bands - those little roof rigs were all at the ready and in the event of rain it would be only the spectators that got wet - a small price to pay for all that wonderful music.

I did take a couple of videos to give all my followers a taste of the evening - as I said it was very difficult to get up close enough for a really good video and it was too dark for a great picture of the last band of the three. However, you can appreciate a bit of how wonderful the night was if you watch my video.

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