Canada Day celebration still fun the 30th time around

The University of Waterloo celebrated its 30th Canada Day Festival at Columbia Lake Fields on, you guessed it, Canada Day, with an event big enough to fill anyone with red and white pride.

The festival was unmistakably Canadian, as evidenced by the thousands of attendees wearing red and white, along with otherwise ridiculous apparel they could only get away with July 1: goofy red and white hats so oversized they would make Pharrell blush, moose antler caps, red and white umbrella hats... just a surprising amount of bizarre Canadian hats, really.

On the topic of Canadian hats, there were also a lot of red and white turbans on display at the festival, due to free turbans being given away by The Sikh Students Association, just one of the many things making the festival uniquely UW.

The students of UW played a big role at this year’s festival. Like every year, Feds was important in putting together the event, with help from the school administration. A number of university groups participated as well, like the UW Faculty of Science, which was demonstrating family-friendly experiments like glow-in-the-dark slime to entertain children. On top of that, the UW-based a capella group, The Water Boys, opened the show with covers of popular songs and their own rendition of “O Canada.”

Naturally, the festival had all the necessities of any good Canada Day celebration: bouncy castles, slip-and-slides, face painting, free stuff — you name it. In addition to festival food staples like cotton candy, pretzels, and food trucks, local legends like Smoke’s Poutinerie and the S.W.A.T. food truck also showed up to sate one’s savoury senses.

The obligatory beer garden was located right by the main stage, where you could take in the music playing or even a thrilling performance by Scott Hammell, escape artist and former UW Juggling Club member, who wowed the audience by escaping a straitjacket while suspended 100 feet in the air by a crane.

But let’s get back to the music. After the Water Boys’ lead-in, the festival featured TVO’s Splash and Boots as the musical guest for most of the afternoon, but unless you dig songs about dancing with unicorns and getting kids to try new foods, that’s probably not your jam. More relevant to the university-age crowd were the evening musical performances by Toronto-based indie band Born Ruffians and former Barenaked Ladies frontman Steven Page.

By the time the Born Ruffians took the stage, the original crowds had effectively tagged out: gone were the toddlers and the parents they brought along for the TVO-centric entertainment, replaced with the crowd of young adults that were better suited for the Born Ruffians’ high energy music. As they played on, the stage area stopped being a place you needed to worry about stepping on kids, not all that surprising since the Ruffians’ songs about getting drunk or their anecdotes about how “fucking sweet” Canada Day is weren’t exactly family-friendly. Luckily, what they lacked in verbal filters they made up for in talent, making them a welcome addition to the festivities.

Unsurprisingly, the crowd grew to its largest right as Steven Page was set to perform, and with his more accessible set list the stage became surrounded with fans of all ages. Page’s music was notably more relaxed and folksy than his hectic, heavier predecessors, allowing for a balance of feel-good evening music that still brought the energy. The set list even included previously unheard music from Page’s in-progress album, making it a night of firsts for the first of July.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Canada Day celebration without fireworks, and so as Page’s set came to an end, so began a massive fireworks display that lasted about 20 minutes, after which the festival promptly cleared out and the roads became cluttered with thousands upon thousands of vehicles trying to get home. Oh, Canada.


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