The Niagara region, like the majority of places throughout North America, boasts an impressive diversity of people and cultures — all of which have helped shape the place into something extraordinary. This heritage is something Canadians take very seriously, and in the Niagara area, it’s celebrated in a big, big way at the Niagara Folk Arts Festival each and every May.
The country’s oldest, continually-running heritage festival, the Niagara Folk Arts Festival lasts from May 6th through May 30th, and it offers ample opportunity for locals and visitors alike to explore the traditions and cultures of the people who call the region home.
If you happen to be coming to Niagara for a vacation during the month of May, set aside some time to take in the festival. From the food and the dance to the music and the art, the Niagara Folk Arts Festival is always a joy to attend.
1. Folk Arts in the Street
Enjoy two amazing days of cultural and heritage performances as dancers, singers, actors, storytellers, and musicians take the stage inside the Robertson Theatre, located in the F1rstOntario Performing Arts Centre in St. Catharines.
Surrounded by cultural craft and art booths, hands-on activities for children and adults, delicious food trucks and booths offering a wide variety of traditional foods, the day offers a small and thoroughly entertaining glimpse into Canada’s far-reaching heritage. Free to the public, the performances will take place on May 28th and 29th from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Saturday and 6pm on Sunday.
2. Cultural Culinary Crawl
Set to take place on Tuesday, May 10th from 6 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. in downtown St. Catharines, the Cultural Culinary Crawl is a feast unlike any other. Ticketholders start the evening on a guided walking tour of the St. Catharines’ downtown before making their way to four different culinary stops. Tickets are just $35, and the evening promises to be educational, entertaining, and delicious.
3. Underground Railroad Tour
The final stop for many enslaved people fleeing the United States before the Civil War, the Niagara region has long reveled in its role helping slaves escape the brutality of their condition and resettle as free people. On Saturday, May 30th at 2 p.m., this tour will take attendees on Underground Railroad-related sites throughout the area.
See the gardens just outside the church Harriet Tubman attended and helped to build. Step into the space where the NAACP was first envisioned. See where Josiah Henson — the man who inspired Uncle Tom’s Cabin — first experienced freedom. A guided tour unlike any other, it is a celebration of black heritage in Canada and of Niagara’s role in the Underground Railroad.
Enjoy a night of Caribbean-themed food and music in Market Square in St. Catharines from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. on Friday, May 27th. Live Caribbean and Jamaican music will be played throughout the evening, and the Caribbean BBQ Pit’s food truck will be offering authentic cuisine from the islands. It’s a perfect way to celebrate the start of summer.
Join with us in celebrating our heritage by taking some time out to enjoy the Niagara Folk Arts Festival. No matter what time you visit in May, something is bound to be happening, and the chances are good that it will look, sound, smell, and taste good.