In less than three years, the Waterdown ArtsFest has become one of Hamilton’s premier music and arts festivals.
The festival’s first two years brought an impressive array of entertainment, and this summer’s lineup is bigger and better.
The musical lineup announced Thursday for the two-day festival offers a dazzling level of quality in a variety of genres — jazz, blues, folk, country and world music — all for free.
This year — ArtsFest takes place Aug. 18 and 19 — the festival will expand onto Dundas Street East, adding a second stage and beverage area to the main music area on Griffin Street.
For jazz fans, the festival includes multiple Juno winner Matt Dusk & The Swing Shift Big Band, and the Cuban stylings of Grammy-nominated saxophonist Jane Bunnett and her band Maqueque.
Guitarist Michael Occhipinti will fuse jazz with Old World folk traditions with his Sicilian Jazz Project band, and jazz-rock orchestra Lighthouse will perform their hits from the ’70s.
Singer-guitarist Matt Andersen is known for his electrifying live performances and will anchor a blues contingent that also includes vocal powerhouse Rita Chiarelli, Juno winner Harrison Kennedy and the classic R&B of Jully Black.
As well, April Wine frontman Myles Goodwyn will perform tracks from his new blues album “And Friends of the Blues.”
Country fans will get a rare live appearance by award-winning singer George Fox, as well as local favourites Lori Yates and The Redhill Valleys.
And, for the child in all of us, Fred Penner will return to sing all his hits, including “The Cat Came Back” and “I Love Sandwiches.”
There will also be street performers, artisan vendors and visual art exhibitions, and cuisine offered up from the many local restaurants and a few specialty food trucks.
“We’re trying to attract the plus-50 (age group) and families with young children,” says Geoff Kulawick, festival board chair and owner of Waterdown-based True North Records, Canada’s largest independent record label.
“We’re trying to position it as ‘festival refined,'” Kulawick added. “This is not camping, this is not partying. This is fine wine, food, art and great musicians. This is a target demographic that the majority of other festivals are not programming for.”
Kulawick conceived the idea of the ArtsFest after moving True North to downtown Waterdown four years ago from Burlington.
Kulawick, who lives in Carlisle, quickly fell in love with the town’s heritage buildings and quaint historic atmosphere and decided it was something the rest of the world would appreciate, as well.
Kulawick and his wife Brooke, co-owner of True North, joined forces with Donna Redl, owner of Creative Works art studio in Waterdown, and the festival was born in 2015.
“Donna Redl inspired us to get involved into the community and to bring arts and culture into the mix,” Kulawick said.