Summer Festivals in St. John’s

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There is a festival or celebration in the summer in St. John’s that will appeal to every taste and interest. Some of the annual festivals have been running for years and some are relatively new additions to the entertainment scene. We can begin with the oldest and by far the most popular with Newfoundlanders and tourists alike.

The history of The Royal St. John’s Regatta confirms that it is rightly claimed as the oldest continuing sporting event in North America. In the 1700s rowing and sailing competitions were held in St. John’s harbour often over a span of three days. Teams from the various vessels in port at the time would compete in races to demonstrate their athletic skills. In 1818 the impromptu days of racing were organized as a formal regatta under royal patronage with all the attending hoopla from folks ashore.

The regatta is now scheduled to be held the first Wednesday of August but if the weather does not cooperate and there is too much wind the Regatta is postponed until the next suitable day. As Regatta Day is a civic holiday in St. John’s this sometimes leads to a little confusion particularly with respect to pre-regatta parties. But an excuse for an extra night or two of celebration is to be cherished in a city of good cheer.

The Royal St. John’s Regatta, held on Quidi Vidi Lake involves races by six-member rowing crews urged on by a coxswain. The rowing shells used in this spirited and highly competitive competition are identical and are owned by the Royal St. John’s Regatta Committee. The distance for the races, men’s crews rowing 2.45 kilometres and women’s crews 1.225 kilometres, are precisely measured so that records can be kept from year to year.

While the races are the centrepiece of the Regatta the activities ashore provide a variety of entertainment from music to a rollicking fun fair.

The scene in St. John’s for partiers is always active on George Street said to be the “Biggest Little Street in North America”, but it really gets rocking at the end of July at The George Street Festival when six days of music are presented on Prince Edward Plaza. Even if you miss the festival be sure to hit George Street, the home of some 22 bars, pubs and clubs. Here you can spend an evening with a beer at a never ending happy hour price and listen to some of the finest Irish, blues, traditional, country, and rock music to be heard anywhere. George Street is regularly voted as the number one entertainment district in Canada partly because the party goes on until 3 am on the weekends.

At the beginning of July, St. John’s swings to a different kind of music at the Wreckhouse International Jazz & Blues Festival. Performances of all kinds of jazz and blues are presented over 4 days on several stages throughout the downtown area.

To be blown away by the latest in avant garde music take in a performance at the Sound Symposium International Festival of New Music and Performing Art. What you hear and see will simply amaze you.

The equally innovative Shakespeare By the Sea Festival runs all summer. The work of the Bard will never be the same to you after you attend a play in a unique environment in and around St. John’s. The thespians have been known to present their work in such locations as a cliff-top meadow overlooking Logy Bay and in the World War II bunkers at Cape Spear.

Newfoundland being a font of folk culture is the natural place to attend a folk festival. You will not be disappointed with the line-up at Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festivalheld in August. Dozens of rising and established talents in performing and song-writing strut their stuff at this festival.

Because the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador has achieved a prominent place in the production of movies and television programs it is fitting that a film festival with a unique focus should be held in St. John’s in October of each year. The St. John’s International Women’s Film Festivalalways presents an excellent program of works by female filmmakers both established and up-and-coming.

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