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Event drawing talent to the streets

Performers of varying ages and abilities will hit the streets of downtown Okotoks in an afternoon festival Saturday.
SA Buskersfest
Musical duo Evangeline Mably and Nick McIlveen hit it off harmoniously during a previous BuskersFest event. This year’s event takes place June 22 in downtown Okotoks.

Performers of varying ages and abilities will hit the streets of downtown Okotoks in an afternoon festival Saturday.

Singers, musicians, dancers, magicians and even dogs will reveal their talents publicly at Okotoks’ BuskersFest & Artisan Market June 22.

It will be singer/songwriter Julia MacArthur’s first busking experience at the festival as she attempts to become better known in the community for her talent.

MacArthur began playing at open mics at the Woodstock Hotel in Turner Valley, The Westwood in Black Diamond and The George and Royal Duke in Okotoks a year ago.

In recent months, MacArthur’s talent was celebrated after she placed third in the Foothills Folk Club songwriting contest in High River and won best performance in Calgary’s The Ship & Anchor songwriting contest alongside fellow musicians Dean Cherkas, Craig West and Deni Kobi.

“I’m just trying to get my name out there,” said MacArthur. “It’s part of a deeper journey – stepping outside of the box and doing things I wouldn’t normally do.”

The 40-year-old musician has been playing guitar for years. After writing poetry through the Millarville Writers’ Group, she began penning country songs.

“Songs just started to come out – I can’t even explain it,” she said.

MacArthur sings mostly cover tunes at open mics, but more recently has been singing her originals.

At BuskersFest, she plans to mix things up.

“I will probably do a mix of covers and originals,” she said. “I don’t have enough originals for the entire day.”

Buskers are encouraged to register online at and then meet downtown at 11 a.m. Saturday to receive their busking location.

Vendors will be ready at 11 a.m. and busking begins at noon. The event runs until 4 p.m.

New this year, buskers are invited onto the plaza stage to perform throughout the afternoon, says program and events manager Janette Messer.

Getting buskers on stage highlights individual performers and gives those with no stage experience the opportunity, while offering a central gathering place for spectators, said Messer.

In addition to highlighting local talent and vendors, Messer invites downtown merchants to also showcase what they have to offer.

“We welcome them to come out on the pavement in front of their stores so it’s like a mini market,” she said. “Many of the downtown businesses have done that in the past. It just gives it more of a festival atmosphere.”

Messer said BuskersFest is growing in popularity as it taps into the region’s burgeoning arts community.

“It gives an opportunity for any of our performing artists to just come out and really get some practice and really let the public hear how great they are,” she said. “It incorporates any kind of performance. We have, in the past, had quite the cross section of ages.”

While the event was rained out last year, Messer said BuskersFest saw record numbers in 2018 with up to 30 buskers.

“It provides entertainment for anyone who wants to come into the downtown and it supports the businesses and restaurants as well,” she said. “We encourage anybody who is coming down to bring some change because the buskers do put a hat out for donations.”

Those in attendance can vote for their favourite busker.

The top six will be invited to play at the Best of BuskersFest during Alberta Culture Days on Sept. 27.

Buskers will also be invited to perform at other town events including Taste of Okotoks, ChiliFest, Champion Park open house, Off the Vine Wine Fest, OkotoberFest and Light up Okotoks.

Neither food trucks nor barbecues will be on site Saturday, as the Town encourages attendees to stop in downtown cafés and restaurants during the event, said Messer.

Tammy Rollie

About the Author: Tammy Rollie

Tammy Rollie is a staff reporter at and the Western Wheel newspaper, focusing on Wheel's West, local arts and culture and entertainment. For story tips contact
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