The stage is nearly set at Victoria Park as crews prepare the downtown green space for Sunfest.
Recognized as the premier summer festival of London, Ont., Sunfest makes its in-person return on Thursday for a four-day “celebration of life” that will feature more than 40 national and international music ensembles.
“This is so exciting, after two-and-a-half years of practically not being able to do it,” said Sunfest founder and co-artistic director Alfredo Caxaj.
“At this point, I truly believe that the whole community is so excited about this, people are dying to go out and really to celebrate life because this is what it is: It’s a celebration of life.”
Caxaj spoke with Global News on Wednesday, as he and an army of volunteers made last-minute preparations in Victoria Park.
“It’s almost like restarting again the whole process, it has been a very challenging year for sure,” Caxaj said.
Air travel proved to be one of the biggest hurdles for Sunfest this year, with international acts facing the same issues seen across Canada airports and airlines in recent days.
“We’re constantly changing the (lineup) because the flights are delayed or cancelled,” Caxaj said.
There’s also the issue of acquiring visas for performers, which Caxaj says takes even longer than before.
“It doesn’t matter now if you applied three months in advance, seems to be that now you have to apply six months in advance, and that really makes things really complicated for artists,” Caxaj said, adding that some local Members of Parliament have stepped in to help with visa issues.
“Hopefully from now until the weekend, every group that (is yet to arrive) will be able to make it on time, but really that is something totally out of our control.”
Another factor out of organizers’ control is the weather, but Caxaj is grateful to have clear skies, warm days and cool nights on the horizon for Sunfest.
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Despite only learning earlier this year that Sunfest would be allowed to run in person, this year promises to have one of the largest lineups ever, which features a wide variety of genres with performers from all over the world.
More than 225 food, craft and visual art exhibitors will also be available.
“We’re so proud of the number of people that come, we’re so proud of the incredible artistic lineup that we have, but the most important thing is the social impact of the festival,” Caxaj said.
“When you see people of all different cultures, different backgrounds, social and economic status, coming together and celebrating, there is nothing more beautiful than that.”
The first performances at Sunfest are scheduled to start at 6 p.m. on Thursday. The full lineup is available on Sunfest’s website.
The festival runs from Thursday to Sunday and admission is free.