Welcome Summer with the Sound of Music

Adventure #42: Welcome Summer with the Sound of Music

In 2012, Burlington’s Sound of Music Festival was named the #1 music festival in the world! Can you believe it? Our “little” festival in our “little” city received the Grand Pinnacle award from the International Festivals & Events Association, reflecting the best overall festival or event anywhere.

Perhaps this is because the Sound of Music Festival isn’t so little anymore. Indeed, over the past fifteen years she has truly grown up to emerge as a phenomenal, world-class event.

This year, the event was expected to attract over 210,000 visits with its unique blend of over 90 new and emerging artists, Canadian icons and returning fan favourites. Musical acts were located throughout our waterfront and downtown area in 10 different performance areas.


The Festival began in 1979 by the City of Burlington to establish a parade to salute its musical ambassadors to the world, the Burlington Teen Tour Band. Within a few years, the “Sound of Music Festival” became a one day, and then a four day community affair, featuring the Parade, and a showcase of local musical talent.

Now complete with a Carnival, Downtown StreetFest, Parade, Family Zone, and a free music education program for children, the event offers something for everyone.


This year, as with every year, it was impossible for anyone to see it all. Believe me, I wish I could have. There were many times when there were three or four acts that I really wanted to see all performing at the same time. Oh, the burden of choice!

For this adventure blog, I’ll simply tell the story of my family’s four-day festival experience starting with Thursday evening.

Thursday, 8:45 pm: With the boys sound asleep, I took off for the waterfront filled with anticipation. My first concert at this year’s festival was the Bob Marley tribute band, Exodus. These guys were jammin’, jammin’!

Exodus - Tribute to Bob Marley

Thursday, 9:35 pm: Our new pier had opened to the public just hours before and now was my chance to check it out. As I posted on Twitter at the time, “Lovin’ the view from the new Brant Street Pier! Its time has come and it’s gorgeous.”

View from Pier

Thursday, 9:57 pm: A first for me this year was the chance to take photos from the media pit right in front of the stage. Down With Webster played their breakthrough hit Rich Girl$ and put on a wildly energetic performance.


Friday, 7:27 pm: The next night I was back for more music, this time with Jr Burlington in tow. After stopping briefly to see a band outside the Burlington Performing Arts Centre, we made a beeline for the Cogeco Stage in front of City Hall to catch The Saints Are Coming. This was the first of three Celtic bands at the Cogeco stage that evening.


Friday, 7:52 pm: I took Jr Burlington to see the new pier and all he wanted to do was play at the small beach. Can’t say I blame him though, as this tiny slice of paradise is now better than ever with a fully accessible concrete ramp down to the sand and water. It seems larger than before and there is a large grassy area above it that seems perfect for summer sunbathing.


Friday,8:03 pm: There were many, many kids enjoying the chance to splash about and build things with sand.


Friday, 8:25 pm: It was snack time and the repeated request was for Tiger Tail ice cream. We found what we were looking for at RC’s Boardwalk, a vintage looking ice cream parlour at the foot of Brant Street with a ton of flavours to choose from. I hadn’t tried Tiger Tail since I was a kid — my first lick triggered happy memories of summertime and growing up.


Friday, 9:51 pm: After dropping the 6-year old off at home and hightailing it back to the festival, I returned to Celtic night at the Cogeco stage. I think this is my favourite stage at the festival because the audience is seated at tables with catering available. It has a perfect, relaxed, backyard summer party vibe.


Friday, 10:06 pm: Performing at the 10:00 hour was one of the most unique bands I have experienced in a long time — Delhi to Dublin. I wouldn’t have thought that Irish music could be so seamlessly fused with Indian music and many other world rhythms. Described by one magazine as the “United Nations of rock ‘n’ roll,” they have become one of Canada’s most buzzed-about bands.


Friday, 10:37 pm: After a while, I headed back to the park and the main stage to catch a bit of Big Wreck, the headliner for Friday night. The turnout was phenomenal with the crowd spilling out to the promenade so that only a trickle of people could get by.


Friday, 10:12 pm: By this time I was itching for some more festival food and I knew just where to get it! Country Boys fresh cut fries is a long-time favourite.


Friday, 10:25 pm: Walking along the sidewalk on Lakeshore Road, I blindly held my camera over the top of the fence to snap this photo showing the size of the crowd.


Friday, 10:36 pm: Back on Brant Street, watching the Downtown StreetFest performers, I came across my brother and his wife (in the lightup squid hat). For many years, they have operated the glow carts that roam the Sound of Music Festival after dark adding to the event’s festive atmosphere.


Friday, 11:02 pm: Soon after 11 pm came a short burst of fireworks from the end of the Brant Street Pier to cap off the evening.


Saturday, 10:58 am: Saturday morning brought one of my favourite parts of the weekend, the Grande Festival Parade. I had planned my first-ever Mr Burlington meetup along the parade route and we welcomed about a dozen families who came by to watch with us.


Saturday, 11:12 am: There’s nothing quite like seeing the Burlington Teen Tour Band march down their hometown streets.


Saturday, 11:33 am: Burlington’s other famous marching band, the Top Hat Marching Orchestra wasn’t far behind putting on a fantastic performance, as always. It’s pretty amazing how much musical talent we have in this city!


Saturday, 11:51 am:  A number of classic fire engines from the Burlington Fire Department and the Killbride Volunteer Firefighters added a touch of nostalgia to the parade.


Saturday, 12:10 pm: Burlington’s summer and winter mascots, Treble Clef and Bur Bear, make a rare joint appearance!


Saturday, 12:50 pm: With the parade over, it was time to head to the Grand Opening of the Brant Street Pier! But by the time we arrived we had missed the Teen Tour Band appearance. Hopefully they’ll repeat their pier performance on Canada Day. We did arrive in time to decorate a mural to be displayed at City Hall with our hand prints.

Burlington Pier Handprint Mural

Saturday, 12:54 pm: We were handed a free cupcake decorated with a colourful hand print. Last summer, a number of children had their hands cast in concrete at the pier entrance; the hand print mural and cupcakes were a continuation of that theme.


Saturday, 1:02 pm: We walked to the very end of our new pier for the first time and snapped a photo with the iconic Burlington Bay Skyway in the background. The pier provides a unique perspective looking back on Spencer Smith Park and all of our Lake Ontario waterfront.

View from the end of the Brant Street Pier

Saturday, 2:34 pm: It was off to the carnival for a ride on the train and a zip down the Fun Slide!


Saturday, 3:27 pm: The next few hours were filled with children’s entertainment. Jungle Cat World showed off many different creatures to excited kids — from a scorpion and a tarantula to a red fox and a dancing bird. At one point I was up on stage with a lemur on my shoulders much to the delight of my 6-year old animal lover.


Saturday, 3:46 pm: What a flashback this was! Having seen Sharon, Lois and Bram perform live a number of times as a kid myself, it was a thrill to be able to introduce my son to their silly sing-along songs. While Lois retired from performing over a decade ago, Sharon and Bram are still going strong in their 70s. Skinamarinky dinky dink!


Saturday, 4:15 pm: Before heading home, we stopped to enjoy the annual beach party on John Street. The Salt Shakers perfectly captured the essence of the Florida Keys and the Caribbean with their lively musical portrayal Jimmy Buffett  and his band.


Saturday, 4:21 pm: Nearby, a sand sculpture was being crafted in the middle of the street.


Saturday, 7:04 pm: Fast forward a few hours and it was time for date night in some Sweet Seats! As we exited the parking lot, Mrs Burlington and I came across these beautiful Tahitian dancers at the John Street Beach Party.burlington-downtown-streetfest-tahitian-dancers

Saturday, 8:28 pm: We made our way to the Sweet Seats tent to enjoy catering by Paradiso while watching Gold & Youth and Diamond Rings. Later, a stroll to the west end of the promenade brought us to the OLG Stage to hear The Matinee and their unique country-rock sound.


Saturday, 8:47 pm: I had secretly saved some carnival ride tickets from my visit earlier in the day with my son. I wanted to ride the Ferris Wheel at dusk on date night to enjoy the view from above.


Saturday, 8:49 pm: What can I say, life in Burlington doesn’t get any better than this!


Saturday, 9:48 pm: LIGHTS was the headliner for Saturday night. I have to admit that when I saw her name for the first time, I said “Who is that?” With her strong stage presence and unique electro-rock sound, I quickly came to see why she is such a raising star.


Saturday, 9:53 pm: I love this photo looking back on the crowd from the media pit — so many people!


Saturday, 10:36 pm: We returned to our Sweet Seats for a while to enjoy some drinks. It really was a sweet experience to be able to enjoy the concert without the crush of the crowd!


Saturday, 10:50 pm: Our final stop for date night was to see LeE HARVeY OsMOND back at the Cogeco stage. This band describes themselves as the birth of Acid Folk with a modern-take on the sound of the 60s.


Sunday, 4:25 pm: Sunday was expected to be a washout, but it turned out to be a beautiful, bright sunny day. My Father’s Day gift was the privilege of returning to the Festival solo in the afternoon to enjoy some more bands! Each year, I look forward to seeing Subourbon St play some Dixieland jazz. By the end of their concert, they had the audience dancing in the street, umbrellas in hand, as if we were down in New Orleans.


Sunday, 5:25 pm: Back at the main stage, things were winding down and vendors were starting to pack up. But the crowd was still large as 54-40 prepared to take the stage. A round of closing speeches was given and a large $10,000 cheque was presented by sponsor ArcelorMittal Dofasco to the Joseph Brant Hospital Foundation. This donation came, in part, from sales of Sweet Seats tickets.


Sunday, 5:30 pm: The crowd was filled with dads and their kids enjoying a Father’s Day filled with sunshine and music mixed together by a Lake Ontario breeze.


Sunday, 5:43 pm: The closing 54-40 concert was regarded by many to be the best show of the weekend!


Sunday, 6:37 pm: I left the concert early to get back home for Father’s Day dinner. On the way out, volunteers were handing out Sound of Music Festival posters to the audience. My poster is now hanging in my office as a memento of a weekend to remember. I imagine around February it will start taunting me with its images of a summer kick-off party still a long way off.


Which bands and performers did you enjoy most this year? Who would you like to see on stage next year? Let me know in the comments form below.

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