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Amid pandemic, arts scene heating up in second half of summer

There's lots happening in downtown Orillia and downtown Coldwater this weekend, says arts and entertainment columnist
OKMF Executive 2020
The Orillia Kiwanis Music Festival's organizing committee managed to adapt quickly to stage an online festival this year. here you go: From row front left: Jennifer Man, Mayumi Kumagai and Terry Therian. Second Row: MJ van Pypen and Sylvia Taylor. Back Row: Lynda McNabb, Don Haskins and Amanda Stanton. Absent: Stephanie Worthington, Leesa Love and Rosemary Freeman. Contributed photo

Welcome to the second half of our pandemic summer. As I write this, rain is falling yet again for the fourth straight day. I hope this turns around soon, and we can enjoy the rest of August in a more seasonal and sunny way.

Let’s hope sun is in the forecast for this weekend at least. See You on the Patio, downtown Orillia’s street closure, is on again this Friday from 4 to 11 p.m. and Saturday from 5:30 to 11 p.m., all through the downtown. Lots of patio space for el fresco dining options, and meeting and greeting, from a safe, six-foot distance.

The Orillia Arts District Art Walk is also this Friday, from 6 to 9 p.m. Come out and check out all the artists in our Peter Street Arts District, both in gallery and outside. Lots of incredible one-of-a-kind items to view and purchase.

There will also be live music throughout Peter Street and the downtown as part of these sunny summery events.

Don’t miss Far Out Fridays Art Romp, a bicycle tour of art in Orillia, this week at 5:30 p.m. To register, go here.

Also this Friday and every Friday in August, come out and support the Orillia Youth Centre fundraising campaign for Jake Beers, to establish a bursary fund in his memory, With the Help of All My Friends.

Jake’s uncle, Shawn Cuppage, has dedicated his Camaro to Jake to help raise money for the campaign. Come out each Friday to view the car, listen to supporting musicians, and donate money for this good cause. For more information, click here.

Coldwater has decided to follow in Orillia’s and other city’s footsteps, and is having street closures each Saturday until Labour Day, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. This will affect Coldwater’s Main Street only, and will be a lovely opportunity to safely stroll the street and see what Coldwater has to offer. There will be outdoor dining and sidewalk sales, and hopefully lots of room to sit and stroll.

Normally this weekend in the summer, you can’t get near Coldwater, as this is Steampunk Festival weekend. This was to be the 10th anniversary of the Coldwater Steampunk Festival, the little festival which grew from a few 100 supporters the first year, to 10,000 in 2019.

Fans of Steampunk need not despair, however. Festival organizers have a few in person installations which will be available to view, in Coldwater, for the entire month of August. The rest of the 10th anniversary will be taken online, starting this weekend and running throughout the month.

The theme this year is Gaslamp Fantasy and organizers have prepared tons of fun online for fans to show off costumes, see art, and explore their creativity. Die-hard Steampunkers are encouraged to check out the Festival’s Facebook page here. Or, visit the YouTube channel here.

Included in the fun this year is a YouTube series, Sawbones Society, which kicks off August 6 at 7 p.m. It will be excellent to see what else this talented group of volunteers pulls out of the hat during this month-long virtual festival. Well done, Coldwater Steampunk Fest!

There has been a lot of creativity and online fun during this pandemic, including with the Orillia Kiwanis Music Festival. Scheduled for quite early on in the pandemic (April), the festival organizing committee made the bold and smart move to go online and it paid off in spades.

Lots of entries in all categories were still received, including large groups, who made use of free mixer apps and their own creativity to put together performances. Videos of all performances were shared with adjudicators, who were still able to listen, see, and provide feedback for all participants.

The finale of the festival has always been the Stars of the Festival concert, again impossible due to COVID-19. This concert also went online, in a montage of adjudicator-recommended performances. Hats off to music director Amanda Stanton, committee members, adjudicators, and performers, who bravely tried this new format out and received rave reviews for their efforts.

Mariposa Arts Theatre sent out an update this week on its fall programming. Regretfully, the planned November 2020 production of Rabbit Hole is cancelled, due to COVID-19. MAT still hopes to produce a shortened 2020-21 season, its 50th anniversary, starting in January 2021. Fingers crossed and here’s hoping!

No word yet on when MAT’s Film Nights will be restarting. We will let you know as soon as possible.

Speaking of live theatre, there is a new podcast out, about exactly that, in Central Ontario. Stage Whispers is the brainchild of local theatre people Kevin Scharf, Trudee Romanek and Nancy Chappell Smokler. It will be about all things theatre in Central Ontario and the podcast is available through Apple, Spotify, or anywhere else you get your podcasts from. For lots more info, click here.

Host Kevin Scharf had this to say: “Our first episode will have news on what the local community theatres have planned to deal with Covid-19, and what some area professional companies are doing to have some live theatre this summer. Plus, an interview with a former Theatre Ontario employee, and a feature about how music is affected by the pandemic. To watch the first episode, which will be online this weekend, click here.

The boys in Bleeker have a new single, Problems, check it out on YouTube here. We are waiting to hear when the new album, Self-Made will be out. Looking forward to it.

Orillia’s Jeremiah Hill recently did a cover of The Rainbow Connection. You can check it out here. Sweet tune, very relevant these days.

Stay safe, stay distanced, and wear your mask, please. Remember, it ain’t over until the fat lady sings.

Email your cultural news to anna by Tuesday at noon, to be included.