Although it may not seem like it right now, spring has arrived and so has the promise for good times to come. Soon, exams will be over and along with the relief, comes warm weather, fresh flowers and endless things to look forward to! From April 29 to May 1, downtown St. Catharines will transform into a cultural mecca, embracing spring with the 8th Annual In the Soil Arts Festival. Brought to us by Suitcase in Point Theatre Company and festival partners, In the Soil is a 3-day celebration showcasing the blossoming talents and innovative creations of local artists.

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(Photo: Lauren Garbutt)

The festival goes above and beyond in providing unique and intimate audience experiences through over 150 original performances of music, theatre, dance, spoken word, film, streetscape, media art, installations, and more. Workshops and interactive experiences encourage community engagement through an artistic lens.

“It’s Niagara’s festival- a festival that showcases not only our community’s talent, but our hospitality to out of town artists, volunteers and patrons. One thing In the Soil is know for is our crazy amount of collaborations and special outside of the box events that you will see for the first time, if not the only time, at this festival.” – Anah Shabbar, Volunteers Coordinator & Collaborator.

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(Photo: Lauren Garbutt/Aesthetic Magazine Toronto)

Each year, festival goers have access to a wide array of events and activities at multiple venues throughout downtown. Every day has something new and exciting to experience.

James Street will serve as the HUB of the festival where visitors can see musicians perform, indulge in some tasty refreshments and explore the vendor bender which has everything from soaps and jewellery to baked goods!

RHIZOMES has been a part of In the Soil for only three years but has quickly become one of the most anticipated events of the festival! This year it takes places at the new Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts. Explore the new school as you embark on a choose your own art adventure from a selection of up to 11 installations and performances by artistic teams. Prepare yourself to participate in some of the creations. For example, in the “Blind Contour Interactive Exhibit”, local artist and Brock University Visual Arts student Amber Lee Williams invites participants to pose for her as she draws her subjects without ever taking her eyes off them. Through this approach, she attempts to connect with her subjects on a more intimate level.

Interactive Village which is new to In the Soil this year, is a collection of tents on James Street featuring free creative, interactive activities including a painting party, finger puppet workshops, and many more!

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(Photo: Sandy Middleton)

An event like this can not be what it is without the hark work and support of enthusiastic volunteers! If you’re interested in getting involved and are passionate about the arts, why not sign up online to become a part of one of Niagara’s distinct cultural celebrations! It’s the perfect opportunity to make new friends, give back to the community and embrace all that the arts has to offer. Did I mention, if you sign up for 3 or more volunteer shifts, you get a FREE festival pass?!

“I personally started at a volunteer at the 2011 festival and worked my way up to Volunteers Coordinator.Volunteering for the festival has introduced me to many artists that I’ve collaborate with since meeting. For me and many others, the festival plays a large role in forming the identity of downtown St. Catharines, the Niagara region and it’s residences.” – Anah Shabbar, Volunteers Coordinator & Collaborator.

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(Photo: Lauren Garbutt)

Although there are many events that will be on going throughout the festival, make sure to check out the schedule to see which are one time performances. There is so much happening, you definitely don’t want to miss out! Many of the events cost $10-20 per entry, but festival passes, which give you access to all of the events, can be purchased online or at the Performing Arts Centre for $40.

Want to know more of what to expect? Here are some highlights of last year’s festival, filmed and edited by Mike Enns!

So, cheer up badgers, there are signs of spring and festivities to come!

For more information check out inthesoil.on.ca.