Finally, I escaped the toaster now known as…everywhere? The lakeside breezes = a little country ice cube next to a concrete bowl of soup. On Saturday, I sailed away to the Toronto Islands…and arrived to a land of New Traditions.

New Traditions Art & Music Festival was put on by three local arts organizations – Whippersnapper GalleryFedora Upside-Down and Artscape Gibraltar Point. Unstoppable artist, community curator and one of the organizers of the fest Joshua Barndt (seen smiling & shirtless in the photo gallery) was beyond stoked everything had fallen into place, with tickets sold out in its first year. A major congrats to all involved because this was no small feat. It was an explosion of activity to explore and bands to dance to (Spontaneous beach clowns! Folk dancing workshop! Splashing in the lake!). 12 hours of fun. By the front gates, “The Dome” art installation by Zannie Doyon, Robin Clason, Benjamin Verdicchio and Nicholas Robins invited you in. New Traditions felt like a new, inventive & cozy occasion that was part Burning Man, part indie rock concert and part park bonfire.

After a cool dip in the lake I’m drawn to a large box made of wood and painted white. Art installation “Water Walk Sky” by artist Felix Kalmenson was described as a 3D “non-curated space” you could crawl inside while it was docked on-shore, and look out the slit or lay on the floor for a truly unique, purified view of the sky and water. As though being on a beach wasn’t calming enough, being inside this installation kind of reminded me of something John & Yoko would have gone to for moments of solitude & tranquility. At sunset it was brought out to the water and you could swim up & crawl inside, as a celebration of the fading of the day. It was beautiful.

A “Puppet Slam,” i.e. puppets for adults, took place later, including dry sketch comedy and what looked like a big pair of lips with a dancing tongue popping out. At the end, it encouraged the first few rows of the crowd to jump into the mouth and dive under the fabric stage, with an Oz-esque clam/head conducting it all at the top. And dove into the fabric abyss, past the dancing tongue, they did. It was yelling out metaphors for all kinds of sex, that’s for sure. Like I said, puppets for adults.

Aside from the beautiful scenery, forests and beaches, the main acts were of course the bands, who kept the energy high with stellar performances from Lemon Bucket Orkestra, Wilderness of Manitoba, Ark Analog (duo of Maylee Todd & Dan Werb of Woodhands) and transcendent performance & mixed media artist Chandra Melting Tallow among many more.

As soon as the boat left the Centre Island docks on the ferry ride home, attendees of the fest began banging on bongos, and playing saxophones & guitars as we made our way back to shore, clearly not ready for the fun to end. The musical ferry ride was most likely a new tradition for groups of tourists visiting the island who had not been at the fest. And I’m sure they were wondering where all this infectious musical energy had come from.

Add a few more food stands next year and I can’t wait for this New Tradition to continue on and on.

~ Becca Lemire

Photos by Becca Lemire (Click to Enlarge)