Canada’s weirdest summer festivals

There’s still hope for those who’ve had their fill of lobster and jazz festivals

by Josh Dehaas

Icelandic Festival of Manitoba— the Fjallkona for 2010 is Helga Malis (Photo taken by Baldur Kristjánsson)

Does the idea of another Pioneer Days or Lobster Fest make you yawn? Don’t feel like dropping a twenty for three minutes on the Scrambler? Then check out some of Canada’s oddball summer festivals instead. Here’s just a few of the alternative events happening in a town near you.

Pingfest
July 18
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Fans of Coronation Street first logged out of their Internet chat rooms in 1996 to meet in a Halifax pub for the inaugural “Pingfest.” Since then, “Pingfests” have become semi-regular events where Corrie fans battle it out over fifty years of trivia. The next big meeting is scheduled for July 18. No one is quite sure why it’s called “Pingfest,” though one theory holds it’s a misspelling of the intended name, “Pintfest.” Last summer, star Michael Le Vell, who plays Kevin Webster, even made the short flight from Manchester.

East Coast Garden Party (in Alberta)
July 24
Grande Prairie, Alberta

It’s hard to turn around in a Grande Prairie bar without bumping into an East Coast expatriate. That is, except on July 24, when they’ll all be downing beers and dancing to bands from the Rock like The Celtic Connection at The East Coast Garden Party.

Collingwood Elvis Festival
July 22-25
Collingwood, Ontario

Hosting dozens of Elvis impersonators at once may be a nightmare for many, but it’s not so for the people of Collingwood, Ontario. The Elvis Festival starts with a pub crawl at the local Pizza Hut on Friday night and ends with the crowning of a new king on Sunday night. In between, there are more gold sequins and curled lips than in Las Vegas.

Islendingadagurinn (Icelandic Festival of Manitoba)
July 30 – Aug 2
Gimli, Manitoba

The Icelandic Festival of Manitoba has been crowning a Fjallkona (a maid of the mountain) and demonstrating Icelandic warfare tactics since 1924. Things that have been added since: isplat (paintball), fris-nok (team Frisbee) and performers like Ohbijou and Said the Whale. No Bjork, sadly.

Chocolate Fest
Aug 1-7
St. Stephen, New Brunswick

Is it any surprise that Canada’s chocolate capital, home of the Ganong Brother’s chocolate company and Canada’s Chocolate Museum, also puts on a chocolate-themed party for a week each August? The festival, made famous when it was featured on Rick Mercer’s show, is every fat kid’s delight. There are chocolate taste tests, chocolate dinners and even a chocolate pudding eating contest.

Gibsons Landing Fibre Arts Festival
Aug 19-21
Gibsons, B.C.

Crocheting, quilting, weaving, felting and woodworking are just some of the “fibre arts” celebrated in Gibsons, B.C. each August. People impressed with homemade blankets can shop for gifts at the vendor’s market, while those who are excited by the idea of silently banging needles together can learn to knit from masters.




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Canada’s weirdest summer festivals

  1. Fibre arts are strange but Bathtub races don't even garner a mention?

  2. Information about or a link to the website for the Merveilles de Sable would be handy since you feature a picture of it… it looks intriguing!

  3. To be accurate…Collingwood Elvis Festival hosts more than 100 professional and amateur tribute artists competing in a multiple categories. There are a dozen official venues, parade, street concerts and dances, beer gardens, mid-way and 25000 or so annual (mostly returning) visitors. Please come, but go to the official website first for info and reserved tickets. Many casual visitors are disappointed that it's a complete sell-out when they get here. http://www.collingwoodelvisfestival.com

  4. Thank you for drawing attention to Islendingadagurrin. We are very proud of the fact that we are among the longest running festivals in North America (121 years this summer). Just goes to show you that weird works when accompanied by the celebration of Icelandic heritage and when fun is offered for the whole family during the August Long Weekend on the beautiful shores of Lake Winnipeg. (And thank you for revealing that secretly, most people want to go a-Viking.) Thanks MacLean's for highlighting festival going as one of the many summer pastimes that makes Canadians truly unique! Kathi Thorarinson Neal, President, Icelandic Festival of Manitoba

  5. I would have thought Gibsons Landing would have a Bruno Gerussi Tribute Festival…

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