Singin’ in the Rain: Joy at the 2024 Skeleton Park Arts Fest

Poster for 2024 Skeleton Park Arts Festival. The title, dates, artists, sponsors, and website are noted. There is also an image of a skull and crossbones but the crossbones are instruments.

The rain never bothered us anyway! At least not at this year’s SPAF. Skeleton Park Arts Festival (SPAF), a grassroots, multidisciplinary art festival, takes place every summer over the solstice weekend in McBurney—more commonly known as Skeleton—Park. With a humble beginning over twenty years ago as a neighbourhood solstice picnic, this free, family-oriented festival has become a beloved and highly-anticipated event in the community. This year’s celebration fell over the weekend of Saturday, June 22 and Sunday, June 23, 2024. The festival is notably a rain-or-shine event, a commitment that was truly tested this year as the weather oscillated between torrential rains, drizzle, cloudy skies, and glimpses of sun throughout the weekend. Participants, vendors, and performers were largely undeterred by the elements, and gleefully took part in the celebrations. 

In addition to a variety of performances on and off the stage, the park was full of community info booths, and an artisan market organized by Fat Goose Craft Fair. This year, these two areas were divided by paths in the park, so that it was clear to distinguish between community organizations and community artists. There was a wide array of different types of art available, as well as community organizations from various sectors, although unsurprisingly a strong presence from the local arts community was present. A cardboard pirate ship installation brought to the fair by the Department of Illumination was another fun and interactive feature of the festival and a major hit with children of all ages. Food vendors were all local, including beloved neighbourhood champions Knifey Spooney, serving up their ever-delicious vegan offerings. 

The festival was fortunate to have two wonderful hosts, both neighbourhood heroes in their own right: Tyffanie Morgan, drag queen extraordinaire with over 24 years of performing in Kingston, and Mariah (Mo) Horner, theatre artist, musician, and soon-to-be professor at the DAN School of Drama and Music (and co-host of SPAF for the past three years). The pair were absolutely charming together, and kept spirits high throughout the challenging weather over the weekend. Check out Haley’s interview with these wonderful hosts in anticipation of the 2024 festival!

I mainly attended the two-day festival on Saturday, and was lucky enough to catch a few of the weekend’s amazing performances. I started it off with Remesha Drums, a drumming ensemble originally from Burundi, and based in Ottawa. Their vibrant and infectious energy was perfectly suited to this joyful community festival. They invited participants to join them in a dance party during their performance, which also set the tone for the weekend overall, where impromptu dance parties were a regular occurrence. 

Later in the day, Anishinaabe artist Adam Sturgeon and collaborators of Status/Non-Status took the stage. Their folk-rock sounds were laid-back and summery, with an added edge. They were followed by The Human Rights, a reggae and R&B group whose infectious beats were impossible not to dance to. Singer-songwriter Julia Finnegan followed, with a soft, yet powerful and expressive acoustic solo performance. Undertow Brass Band brought the tempo up with their extremely dance-able instrumentals that got the crowd moving. Although varied in style, with a combination of local performers and those from further afield, the performances felt cohesively part of a heartfelt festival celebrating multidisciplinary arts. 

The worst of the rain occurred on Sunday morning, but the crowds were unphased and the traditional Porch Jazz Parade, this year featuring Carlo and the Paul Clifford Trio, continued with business as usual (a fierce dance party). More performances continued throughout the day, and the sun emerged in full force Sunday afternoon, as if a reward for the perseverance of festival-goers, volunteers, and community members throughout the weekend. As well as being a total blast, the weekend reinforced a sense of community and connection in the neighbourhood. It really captures some of the special qualities of the Skeleton Park area. 

Skeleton Arts Park Festival hosts pop-up events throughout the year. Keep up-to-date with them on their Instagram and Facebook. Catch the seasonally-published, community publication The Skeleton Press for neighbourhood news by clicking here


  • Alyce Soulodre

    Alyce Soulodre (she/her) is a queer, self-taught artist and occasional academic writer living in Katarokwi/Kingston. She earned her Ph.D. in English from Queen’s University, where she explored monstrosity from Victorian novels to 1980s horror films, and taught a course on Victorian ghost fiction. She has been published in Attack of the New B Movies: Essays on Syfy Original Films (2023), and London’s East End: A Short Encyclopedia (2023). In her art practice, she focuses on the weird and wonderful of the natural world and popular culture, and her work reflects her fascination with creatures and plants of all kinds. She also serves on the Board of Directors at Kingston Arts Council and Union Gallery. She enjoys cheesy horror flicks, quaint detective novels, and tries to keep Halloween in her heart all throughout the year. Photo by Talib Ali.

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