History of the Waterloo Busker Carnival: 1998 - Year 10

"Who would have imagined 10 years ago that we would last 10 years and become such a fun-filled and anticipated event?" stated Randy Warren, Carnival Chairperson, in his introductory greeting.

The inaugural Festival of Fools fundraising event was held on Wednesday, August 26, 1998 at the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery and organized by Tracey Johnston-Aldworth and Colleen Miller (City of Waterloo staff). For $50 per ticket, guests were treated to food, drinks, and a Sue Todd original T-shirt with a chance to mingle with this year's buskers. Busker Tawny Ross (now known as Aytahn of Acme Circus) hosted the event. (Note: todays FOF features mini-performances by all the buskers.)

The Festival of Fools event was followed by four days of fun and silliness. The The following four days (August 27th to 30th, the 10th annual Waterloo Busker Carnival rolled out along King Street in UpTown Waterloo. The Fringe Festival Competition on the 27th at 3pm saw local performers compete for a spot on the street. This was followed by the Opening Ceremonies at 6:30pm on the Parkade Pitch Stage. Kidz Day ran from 2pm to 5pm on Friday while the Late Night Adult Show lit up Saturday night at 11:30pm. On the final day, Sunday, a 10th anniversary celebration from 3pm to 4pm featured birthday cake, free balloons, and "much more". It all wrapped up with the grand finale Vaudeville Show at 4pm.

Pre-press from The Record on August 15th quoted Colleen Miller, special events co-ordinator for The City of Waterloo as saying "Buskers from around the world begin vying for the opportunity to perform at the local festival months in advance. Our carnival in Canada is probably ranked 2nd now."

Susan Chilton, business editor of The Record, wrote about the "Businesses behind busking" in her August 18th editorial: "From humble origins it was started to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Waterloo Chamber of Commerce it has quickly become one of the foremost busker festivals in the country. The non-profit event, affiliated with the City of Waterloo, has achieved this on a shoestring budget of $75,000: $25,000 cash and $50,000 in products and services. Compare that to the Edmonton Busker Carnival, which has a budget of approximately $350,000, to appreciate the magnitude of this accomplishment."

10th Anniversary Buskers included:

Movin Melvin, Texas - singing, dancing, storytelling, humour

Madri Gals, Toronto - renaissance singing trio

Silly People, Kitchener - balloon sculpting, comedy

Flyin Bob, Saskatoon - juggling, unicycling, high wire, comedy

Andrew Elliot, Australia - East Indian Magic, fire eating, sword swallowing

El Gleno Grande, West Virginia - comedy, equestrian antics

Tawny Ross, Montreal - fire show, juggling, dance

Magic in Motion, Waterloo - magic and mayhem

The Jim Show, Boston - bike balancing, juggling, stunts, comedy

The Unicycle Lady, Washington D.C. - unicycling, dance

Invisible Masters, Halifax - musical marionettes

Madame Buskerfly, Toronto - comedy, circus skills, stilt ballet

The Butterfly Man, California - comedy, juggling

The Yo-Yo Man, Denver - yo-yo skills and antics

The Funny Waiter, Michigan - napkin sculpturing, cups and saucers, comedy


Special Notes: Tracey Johnston-Aldworth, consistently on the carnival committee since the 2nd carnival in 1990, was honoured with The Waterloo Award - the highest civic honour a person can receive from the City of Waterloo. Tracey volunteered for many years with the annual Waterloo Busker Carnival, taking on roles in virtually all areas of the event. In 1998, she initiated the Festival of Fools, an extremely successful and continuing fundraising event for Buskers (see below The Waterloo Chronicle).

In 2008, Randy Warren, also on the carnival committee since 1990, would receive The Waterloo Award.

The Record's Nightlife put the buskers on the front cover and featured a centerfold article citing "Against a backdrop that is a sea of faces blooming randomly out of the shop windows and along the sidewalks, puppeteers, magicians, jugglers, sword swallowers, comics, and acrobats will ply their trades. And at the end, theyll pass the hat to collect donations for weaving their spells."

The Waterloo Chronicle featured a front page article on the very first 'Festival of Fools': Festival organizer, Tracey Johnston-Aldworth said "it will be a casual event that features the entertainers (buskers) all night with a chance to ask questions about their craft" and "While none of the acts are officially slated to perform, their (the buskers) natural tendency to be the center of attention will win out over any reluctance to become a show-stopper. To not entertain when there's a crowd is almost against their nature."

A Joel Rubinoff article on the August 28th front cover of The Record's local section noted: "Take Flyin' Bob, a Saskatoon-based juggler/unicyclist/highwire artist who advocates Coca Cola as a substitute for milk. He amuses the crowd by teaching Charles Atlas he-man moves to an eight-year-old boy and dribbling ping pong balls with his mouth. Or Movin' Melvin, a Texan who did a Vegas lounge rendition of When Youre Smiling and wowed the crowd with his Michael Jackson-meets-Sammy Davis Jr. dance moves."

And the Monday August 31st front page Local section of The Record where writer, Eugene McCarthy wrote "Aussie busker finds Waterloo to his liking". The article noted the performers (Andrew Elliot) compliments to the carnival organizers: "Amenities like having volunteers to assist, a 'green room' for performers, billeting where theres a cup of coffee ready for you in the morning and snacks available throughout the day means a lot to the buskers who make their living out of a suitcase."