Hot Arts summer

June 2024

For me, summer events in town always remind me of community. Summer time is the perfect time to connect with others from ice-cream runs to camp getaways. As for this summer specifically, here are some events in Thunder Bay I think exemplify the pride and joy of community.

Poetry Night: Queer Showcase

It’s no secret Thunder Bay has a thriving arts community and Pride Month in Thunder Bay is filled with fun, insightful, and essential events to celebrate our 2SLGBTQ+ community near and far. Now, combining those two together, gifts us the inaugural Poetry Night: Queer Showcase.

Initially coming from Andrei Roasario, the owner and operator of The Sleepy Gee Events; his sole proprietorship business/passion project where he organizes events focused on the arts to promote community development, arts, and businesses, his mission to bring poetry to the city offered a great opportunity to collaborate with Thunder Pride and Rainbow CollectiveThunder Bay to develop the Queer Showcase as a way to close out Pride Month.

“The last poetry night in March had over 100 people there. There’s a huge interest in poetry nights,” says Rosario. “After the pandemic, poetry nights significantly decreased and I wanted to bring them back because it’s such an obscure art form. I want to make it more accessible for people to appreciate the art and even take part in it.”

The poetry night will showcase a wonderful line-up of local queer poets reading their works to the audience such as Amanda Nistico, a bisexual mental health activist, local author Sam Convey who has published two poetry books, Bloom and Until I Feel Like My Mother, Clover Beaver, a two-spirit trans woman from Nibinamik First Nation whose poetry expresses grief and loss whilst connecting with her ancestral roots, spirit and body, local two-spirit drag performer John Forget who drag fans may know as Lady Fantasia and Kris Tonkens, the community advocate and owner of Loud Women Collective who will be performing their original music at the poetry night.

Not only will these poets take the stage, but this poetry night will also feature an open-mic session inviting audience members to read their own work onstage and inadvertently, form connections in our rising local poet scene.

“The last poetry event, 13 people signed up for the open mic,” says Rosario. “I met Amanda and Clover because they participated in the open mic session. They were very passionate about wanting to perform again so I asked them if they would like to be featured in the next event, and they happened to be proud members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community too.”

Needless to say, Pride events are a hot ticket in town and adding a poetry night for everyone to the mix, will have you end Pride month with more than just essential knowledge, but maybe inspiration to pen your own poem.

“Poetry is for everyone and you don’t necessarily have to have prior education to write poetry,” says Rosario. “There’s so much history of queer people being silenced. With poetry, it’s such a creative way for people in the queer community to just express themselves as a person and in a creative manner in a way that other people who also appreciate poetry or know about poetry can also understand.”

Poetry Night: Queer Showcase, will take place on Saturday June 29th from 5pm-9pm at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch Five (229 Van Norman Street) on the 2nd floor and is wheelchair accessible. Tickets can be purchased online through Eventbrite or at the door. For more information and to keep an eye out for more fun events, follow The Sleepy Gee @thesleepygee

Buskers Festival

From sitting at Calico Coffee House with friends, browsing in all the local stores from Entershine to Authentique, and capping the night off with snacks at The Madhouse, there’s no denying the Bay & Algoma neighbourhood is a gem of a spot in Thunder Bay. Especially in the summertime, as the neighbourhood comes to life for a weekend of food, art and fun with the Buskers Festival.

“It’s kind of a spot to let your freak flag fly. A sidewalk sale on steroids,” says Buskers Festival Director Uriel Lubuk.

Starting in 2013, friends Brian Hamilton and Lubuk developed Buskers Festival as a great economic driver for all the local businesses in the neighbourhood and coinciding with Bay & Algoma’s Annual Sidewalk Sale that soon bloomed into a summer tradition.

“It’s that one weekend in the summer where Bay & Algoma really highlights the neighbourhood and Thunder Bay kind of has a big city atmosphere,” says Lubuk. “You just see how happy people could be in a not so happy world at times. People get to hang out face to face and get off their computers or their tablets.”

As for what to expect this weekend, the numbers include 50 craft vendors, 25-30 local entertainers, a few entertainers from out of town, food vendors, and of course, all the Bay & Algoma hotspots open and ready for customers.

“We’ve got jewellery, candles, stained glass, previously loved vintage clothing, sports cards, and collectibles,” says Lubuk.

Some of the live entertainment around Bay and Algoma will include Creed Statuary, the living statue from Winnipeg clad in either silver or gold, Turkish fire breather, acrobat extraordinaire and elevated unicycle rider Egemen Ustun from Montreal, and Sam Malcolm, a juggling comedian from the Stillwater Paiute-Shoshone Reservation and Salt Lake City, whose juggling takes him to new heights (literally) and welcomes the crowd to be part of the act.

Nevertheless, Buskers Festival itself, truly exemplifies how the community of Bay & Algoma welcomes everyone near and far to the streets for a weekend of good food, good people, and good times.

“People should go to Buskers Fest to see something different, and maybe even see someone they know showcasing their talent,” says Lubuk. “You’ll see a lot of people and bump into people they know at Buskers. There’s a noticeable electric feel in the little humble yet historic neighbourhood of Bay and Algoma. It’s really awesome and humbling to see how much community involvement we have with the festival.”

Buskers Festival takes place on July 27th and 28th from 10am-5pm in the Bay and Algoma Neighbourhood. For more information, visit, @tbaybuskers on Instagram, or and Bay & Algoma Buskers Festival on Facebook.

Taylor Onski is a graduate of L.U. Master of Arts in English Literature, works in post-secondary education and is a freelance writer.

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