6 Virtual Festivals and Events to Check Out Across Canada This Summer

Summer festivals and events that would typically attract local crowds are putting their programming online – which means it’s possible to hop from a live reading at the Saskatchewan Festival of Words to a screening of Romeo and Juliet in Stratford, Ontario, all in one day. Here’s how.

July 8, 2020
The start line of the Lululemon SeaWheeze Half Marathon in Vancouver
Lululemon SeaWheeze Half Marathon, Vancouver.
  1. Set your own course —

     The Lululemon SeaWheeze Half Marathon is famous for its hard–to–get–into popularity and picturesque route, which traditionally winds along Vancouver’s Stanley Park Seawall. This year’s virtual edition makes the race more accessible than ever: register for the 21.1k (or new 10k option) and chase your runner’s high anywhere you like from August 15 to 23.

A speaker in a crowded room at the Saskatchewan Festival of Words
Saskatchewan Festival of Words.
  1. Get lit at home —

     The Saskatchewan Festival of Words (July 13 to 19) will be entirely digital and free (though donations are welcome). Beyond author readings, highlights include a writing workshop featuring Saskatchewan Poet Laureate Bruce Rice, a panel talk on the province’s literary culture and a live–streamed concert by Andino Suns, Regina’s South American folk–rock band.

Josh and Benny Safdie and Robert Pattinson at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal
Josh and Benny Safdie and Robert Pattinson, Fantasia International Film Festival, Montreal.   Photo: King-Wei Chu
  1. See films first —

     From real–time premieres to audience Q&As, Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival is going virtual, August 20 to September 2 (screenings viewable only within Canada). As one of North America’s biggest showcases for genre cinema, a.k.a. B–movies, it has plenty to entertain horror/thriller fans, kicking off with Neil Marshall’s The Reckoning, set in England’s 17th–century Witch Hunt era.

Amaka Umeh in Hamlet from the Stratford Festival On Film
Amaka Umeh, Hamlet, creative direction by Punch & Judy Inc., Stratford Festival On Film.   Photo: David Cooper
  1. Stream Shakespeare’s classics —

     While theatre–going is on indefinite pause, the next closest thing is the Stratford Festival On Film, now screening some of the Bard’s best–known plays – each shot during a single live performance. Visit the website to catch free productions like Antony and Cleopatra (July 2 to 23), Romeo and Juliet (July 9 to July 30) and The Taming of the Shrew (July 16 to August 6).

Traditional dance performance at the Edmonton Heritage Festival
Edmonton Heritage Festival.   Photo: John Lucas
  1. Celebrate diversity —

     The Edmonton Heritage Festival is bringing its multiculti entertainment online, August 1 to 3. Instead of its usual Hawrelak Park grounds, festival organizers will lay out more than 40 virtual pavilions – each focused on a different country or cultural group – on an interactive map. Stop by to watch craft demos, performances or food videos.

Black and white photo of Inspector (Christy) Bruce with a magnifying glass from Toronto's SummerWorks
Inspector (Christy) Bruce, SummerWorks, Toronto.
  1. Take in the drama —

     Toronto’s SummerWorks is running a slate of free contemporary performances until September. The socially distant programming includes shows from the School of Toronto Dance Theatre, Toronto Fringe Festival and other collaborators; keep an eye on the festival site for event announcements.