The 20th Waterloo Arts Festival brings music, art and food to a vibrant street market – The Land

Patron of the 2019 Waterloo Arts Festival. (Photo courtesy of Waterloo Arts Festival)

The Waterloo Arts Festival in Cleveland’s North Collingwood neighborhood not only showcases the area’s art, music, food and shops, but also showcases its potential, said Amy Callahan, executive director of the Waterloo Arts Center.

The festival takes place on Saturday, September 9th from noon to 7pm, with 40 different bands performing on stages in the street. art vendors and activities; a children’s area; and food trucks and other vendors. She said the festival, now in its 20th year and attracting thousands of people every September, was designed to have the look and feel of a diverse city street, with activities blending together to give people an urban experience. .

She said that unlike other festivals, this one doesn’t have headliners or a main stage, and that’s intentional.

“Some of this is designed to give you a sense of what you feel when you’re on a really nice city street in a really busy city,” Callahan said. “In many ways we are a ghost town, and the East End feels more like that. But for these seven hours, the idea was, could you model a great city street so that people could See that and start to feel differently about the community and be inspired to make changes on a regular basis?”

Children’s play area at Waterloo Arts Festival 2019. (Photo courtesy of Waterloo Arts Festival)

Rooted in Collingwood

One of the unique things about Waterloo, she said, is that many business owners live in the community, so they have a vested interest in the area. The festival is an extension of the area and there are a lot of people lending a helping hand. “We’re in a community where a lot of different people live here,” Callahan said. “Maybe we’ve maintained that grassroots feel.”

There are several new startups worth visiting in Waterloo this year. In addition to mainstream restaurants such as Beachland Ballroom, Millard Fillmore, Citizen Pie, Praxis Fiber Workshop and Brick Ceramics, there are also new restaurants such as Doinks Burger Joint, which opened last month. Treelawn is another newer hotel located in the historic Slovenian Workers’ House in Waterloo. It is a social club, comedy and music venue and will be open during the festival. Other newer businesses include NEAT (estate sales at a Waterloo storefront) and Pop Life (a juice bar, yoga studio and zero-waste market).

While Callahan said Waterloo Arts Organization and the streets of Waterloo Road are still fighting the pandemic, she finds inspiration in the resilient, dedicated people of North Collingwood who are committed to the area. She started out as a volunteer, eventually graduating to become the director of a small nonprofit that organizes art projects on the streets, including maintaining storefront galleries and organizing annual arts festivals.

“It reminded me of my mom’s story in New York and the activism that was going on at the time,” she said of Waterloo. “It felt like people were coming together and asking what a good community is and how can we make a change? I just got sucked in and never left.

This year’s Waterloo Festival will feature 40 ensembles performing on seven stages. (Photo courtesy of Waterloo Arts Festival)

Music, food, art and more

The festival includes 40 local music acts on 7 smaller stages located throughout the region. (Visit for the entire schedule) The stage is positioned lower to the ground to eliminate distance between performers and audience, Callahan said. Although the area is best known for rock music—”If Cleveland is the home of ‘rock,’ then Waterloo is the basement rec room where we turn on the music,” goes one slogan—many genres will be showcased during the festival. “Then they stand together and you start to get the sense that this is a fun place with a lot of people,” Callahan said. “That’s what makes a great city.”

The festival will also feature art vendors and activities for all ages, including make-and-take away crafts and other interactive art projects. For the children’s area, there will be a natural “playscape” playground, allowing children to imagine and create their own world. For example, children will be able to create their own still life drawings using a sketchbook and build using Lego bricks. Praxis Fiber Workshop will even bring a loom to the street to show people how to weave. The purpose of it all, Callahan said, is to “expose people to different media and different professionals.”

Throughout the festival, visitors can see a variety of food vendors and food trucks. Callahan said that while a small food court may be available this year, in the past she has resisted separating vendors by category. She likes to mix art, food and community stalls and make them feel like storefronts. Street performers will be on hand to entertain people and encourage them to explore all the different businesses in Waterloo’s diverse area.

The Beachland Ballroom and Tavern is one of the businesses that has brought new life to Waterloo over the past 20 years. This year, they will have a stage in their parking lot, as well as a beer garden sponsored by Tito and Miller. The bistro will be serving a special festive menu and will be open for people to sit and relax between events. The ballroom will be transformed into a “green room” where the festival bands will play, with a supervised area to store their equipment so they can enjoy the festival with confidence. The sponsorship they secured will provide drinks for all musicians on all seven stages. The Beachland stage will remain open until dusk after the festival, while everyone cleans up.

Cindy Barber, owner and founder of Beachland, has lived in Waterloo Region since the beginning. “The first festival was very small, held in the Beachland parking lot,” she said. “It wasn’t very kid- or family-friendly, and only about 50 people attended. Now, we highlight the entire street and add features like nonprofits, co-op bricks, and art galleries. Everything is connected now.

The festival will also showcase Waterloo Arts Centre’s new green roof and green walls. The adjacent alley will be used for a “Dally in D’Alley” with seating, live acoustic music, games and children’s books. In addition, the current exhibition “Mobile Home” at the Waterloo Art Gallery will be open. The exhibition was created by local artists Krista Tomorowitz and Tim Callaghan, who wanted to create an exhibition focusing on the closure of Collingwood’s Euclid Beach Mobile Home Park, which had been in existence since the 1970s. The West Reservation Land Conservancy plans to close the mobile home park in August 2024 and help relocate residents as part of the Euclid Beach Lakefront City Park.

“When Krista and Tim first showed me this… Tim said this: ‘I think artists are witnesses and this is an important space in our community that we’ve always been fascinated by, so this is what we way to invite artists to participate,” Callahan said. Organizations like the Northeast Ohio Homeless Coalition and Euclid Beach Mobile Home Tenants have been organizing to try to stop WRLC from closing the mobile home park and advocate for just compensation for residents who must be relocated.

Callaghan hopes to stage the exhibition so it can open in time for the festival’s 20th anniversary. She wonders, “When things start to change, how do they change? I don’t think art is responsible for injustice or the way it doesn’t include people. But I do think we have to be aware of communities and how we impact them. I do feel Art has the power to play a role in activism. You can connect emotionally to something through art.

number 20th The annual Waterloo Arts Festival is held at the Waterloo Arts and Entertainment District on Waterloo Road.Between Calcutta Avenue and East 161Yingshi Streets from noon to 7:00pm on Saturday, September 9, 2023 During this time the streets will be closed and visitors will be directed to park on adjacent side streets.More information can be found here.

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