Published August 2, 2023

Excitement Is Building For Kempenfest 2023: Here's What You Need To Know

You Won't Want To Miss It

This Barrie 360 content is brought to you by Kempenfest

Kempenfest is returning this summer from August 4 to 7, 2023. The event is one of the biggest arts and crafts festivals in Ontario, attracting thousands of visitors from all over the province every year.

Celebrating its 51st edition, Kempenfest has a rich history and a long list of attractions that you won't want to miss.

How Kempenfest Got Started

Kempenfest began as a small event known as the Huronia Festival of Arts. It was inspired by an arts festival in Toronto and organized by a retiree named Ray Marshall, along with members of the Barrie Art Club and Kiwanis.

During the first few years, the event grew rapidly. While art was still a core attraction, the festival began including new organizations, like the Lions and Rotary Club, and more attractions. There were regattas, classic cars, competitions, and rides.

Originally held at the Formosa Spring Breweries Park (later Molson Park), the festival didn't move to the shores of Kempenfelt Bay until 1975. It was during this move that the festival officially became Kempenfest.

One of the most anticipated events in Barrie and the surrounding area, Kempenfest now offers loads of attractions with a bit of something for everyone.

5 Reasons To Visit Kempenfest This Summer

With nearly 500 exhibits, there are many reasons to head to Kempenfest this August long weekend. Here are 5 big ones:

1. The Arts & Crafts Show

Arts & crafts are still at the heart of Kempenfest. This year, the festival will feature over 300 artisans and crafters showcasing their handmade goods. While there, you'll see everything from jewelry and pottery to paintings and sculptures. Visitors can browse the stalls that span over 2 km of waterfront, meet the artists, and purchase unique and one-of-a-kind items.

This year's Arts & Crafts Show will feature 3 main categories of vendors, each offering different products and experiences:

  1. Original Arts & Crafts – Handmade, usually one-of-a-kind pieces made by the on-site artisan. The artisans use a variety of techniques and materials, from traditional woodworking to modern textile printing, to create their pieces. These vendors are located in Centennial Park.
  2. Tastes of Kempenfest – Items for and from the kitchen that are not commercially produced. These vendors can be found between the Tiffin Launch and the Sundial. Visitors can browse through a range of items, from homemade jams and preserves to artisanal cheeses and baked goods. The vendors often offer free samples, so you can taste the products before making a purchase.
  3. The Marketplace – New and innovative products that aren't being sold retail, additional arts and crafts sold by someone other than the maker, and Canadian products. This category of vendors can be found between the Main Stage and the Sundial. Visitors can explore a range of products, from unique home decor items to natural beauty products. The vendors often have interesting stories behind their products, and visitors can learn about the creative process and inspiration behind each piece.

Vendors are carefully selected each year to meet the Festival’s high standards. If you would like to see who will be at the arts & craft show, a vendor list will be published on their website in July.

2. Amazing Food

In addition to the arts and crafts, Kempenfest also has a wide range of food vendors, offering traditional Canadian fares, like poutine and maple syrup treats, and international cuisine.

At the festival, you'll find over 25 local food trucks and vendors. You can also visit the Rotary Beer Garden at the Main Stage or the Knight's Oasis in Centennial South Park if you're looking for a refreshment. Both venues will feature cold drinks from LandShark Lager and Georgian Bay Spirit Co.

3. Great Music

Music is also a big part of Kempenfest, with live performances from a diverse range of musicians. Kempenfest’s Marketing Director Tom Aikins shares this year’s philosophy on music.

“One of our objectives this year was to keep the music “fresh” meaning new bands that have not performed at Kempenfest in the past. The application deadline closed March 1st and over 350 bands, solo musicians, stage shows, and kids entertainers applied to be part of Kempenfest. The entertainment committee is busy reviewing those applications and assure us that we will have the “freshest” programming for our two stages. Our community is overflowing with great talent.”

This year, there'll be two stages. The first stage is the OLG Main Stage, with free entertainment Saturday and Sunday afternoons. In the evenings and on Monday afternoon, the main stage will host ticketed shows. 

This year’s paid shows will include performances by:

  • Finger Eleven with Vilivant, Falset, and Fortunate Losers on Friday, August 4th
  • Tom Cochrane with Harm & Ease, Bigfoots Hand, and Lyric Dubee on Saturday, August 5th
  • Jade Eagleson with Cory James Mitchell, Dayna Reid, and Mackenzie Leigh Meyer on Sunday, August 6th
  • Brian Neale’s Northern Harbour’s Margaritaville Party on Monday, August 7th

The KOOL FM Family Stage will be located in the Turkey Farmers Kids Village. (We'll talk more about the stage and the village in just a bit.)

4. Antique Show

Kempenfest is not only known for its Arts & Crafts show but also for the Antique Show. Run by the Optimist Club of Barrie, the antique show has been an integral part of Kempenfest for nearly 20 years and is one of the most anticipated events of the festival.

The Optimist Antique Show is set to feature 40 exhibitors from across Ontario, showcasing a wide range of antiques and collectibles. Visitors can expect to see a diverse collection of items that range from small trinkets like jewelry and signs to larger pieces like harvest tables and corner cabinets.

One of the unique features of the Antique Show is that the exhibitors are carefully selected to ensure that only authentic antiques and vintage items are on display. No reproductions are allowed. Vendors are also experts in their field, so you can chat with them and learn more about the items on display. This creates an immersive experience for antique lovers and collectors, and it's an opportunity to discover the history and stories behind each item.

5. The Kids Village

During Kempenfest, visitors can explore the Turkey Farmers Kids Village, which is one of the newer attractions. As mentioned earlier, the village is home to the KOOL FM Family Stage. This stage will have tons of great entertainment from kids programming to World Music showcases to local bands. Every show host on the stage will be free to watch, thanks to TD and KOOL FM.

The Kids Village also offers plenty of activities for children and their families including interactive games, art workshops, and more. Additionally, the Kids Village is proud to host professional wrestling events on Saturday and Sunday evenings.

“We featured wrestling for the first time last year – and it was a huge hit. It’s a great family event, very clean … it’s family fun. And it’s real,” Tom shares with a grin. Leading up to the wrestling events on Saturday and Sunday night, two great bands will warm up the crowd.

Visitors can also indulge in the classic carnival rides and games offered at the Kempenfest midway, located right next to the Kids Village. The midway is managed by Robertson Amusements, a traveling theme park that prioritizes safety and fun. In addition to rides and games, visitors can enjoy carnival favorites, such as cotton candy, caramel apples, and popcorn, from the food vendors present at the midway.

Featured Attractions

Bob Stones, chair of the Kempenfest board of directors, says this year will have some unique activities, and they want to increase the overall experience.

"We really bounced back from the two years of COVID," Stones told Barrie 360.

"Last year we had a great year, and this year we've got numbers that are better than we've ever had before in terms of arts and crafts, exhibitors, antique dealers, food, and beverage outlets. We're trying to appeal to all audiences, all age groups, different genres."

Featured attractions this year include:

  • A public participation giant paint-by-numbers mural organized by the Barrie Art Club – near the basketball courts
  • Barrie Wrestling’s Bash By The Bay 2 – at the Kid’s Village at Centennial Beach Saturday night
  • Tools In The Trades workshops at the Lion’s Pavilion in Centennial Park
  • Tim Horton’s Timbits night at the Midway on Friday night (kids in their Timbits jerseys ride for free)
  • The Knights of Columbus Oasis – a quiet lakeside hideaway with food and refreshments from Waterloo Brewing and Georgian Bay Spirit Co (just past the bridge from Tiffin Launch)
  • Emerging Artist tent adjacent to the Optimist Antiques featuring first-time exhibitors
  • World Music Day on the KOOL Family Stage on Sunday

Don't Miss Kempenfest 2023

Kempenfest is an annual event that brings together art, music, and community in a celebration of creativity and culture. With its wide range of artisans, musicians, and food vendors, as well as its commitment to sustainability and community involvement, the festival has something for everyone.

Whether you're a local resident or a visitor from out of town, Kempenfest 2023 is a must-see event that will leave you feeling inspired and uplifted.

For more information, and the official guide, click here.

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