Midsummer's Dream fest aims to separate from multicoloured pack

Colour festivals and marathon runs have become commonplace in southern Ontario. While some may feel event fatigue over parties where you end up covered in multicoloured dye, Midsummer's Dream organizer Mark Gowland says he wants his festival to become a staple in the city’s busy festival circuit.

3rd annual festival runs Saturday in Gage Park

The Midsummer's Dream Colour festival starts at noon in Gage Park this Saturday. (Submitted by Lutz Bartsch)

Hamilton’s Midsummer’s Dream festival isn’t the only multicoloured party on the block anymore.

Colour festivals and colour marathon runs like Colour Me Rad and Run or Dye have become commonplace in southern Ontario in the three years since organizer Mark Gowland started his festival in Gage Park.

Yet while some may feel event fatigue over parties and marathons where you end up covered in multicoloured dye, Gowland says he wants his festival to take root in Hamilton and grow year after year to become a staple in the city’s busy festival circuit.

“It’s true, I do see [colour festivals] everywhere now,” Gowland told CBC Hamilton. “But I want this to be something else — to be everlasting, and dig deep into the community.”

I just want to make a difference and cause a scene.- Mark Gowland, organizer

The Midsummer’s Dream festival has a shot at doing just that. Both crowds and interest have swelled each year since its inception, and Gowland insists that the festival embodies certain characteristics: creativity, inclusion, and above all, fun.

The festival is a homage to the Holi Festival of Colours in South Asia, where people celebrate wildly and hurl coloured powder at each other. The spring festival exists to celebrate positive energy and bridge social barriers. Gowland says those ideas influence everything he does with his festival, too.

“I just really liked what Holi represents,” he said. “It’s an amazing transformation when everyone is covered in colour.”

“We become all the same, suddenly.”

The event is built around timed colour tosses, where revellers gather and throw packets of dye into the air. This year, there’s also plenty of festival fare like food and music — featuring performances by the likes of local beatboxer Hachey the MouthPeace and bands such as City and the Sea and The Human Orchestra.

There’s also yoga, an all-day sports field, and an arts and crafts tent Gowland calls the “Temple of Creativity,” where festival-goers pay what they can and get access to a do-it-yourself craft table. The proceeds go to McMaster Children’s Hospital.

“I just wanted something where everyone is constantly participating and doing something instead of just standing around,” Gowland said. “It’s the most interactive festival I’ve ever been to.”

The event is free, but attendees are asked to bring a non-perishable food donation for the Living Rock food bank. The festival gathered 800 pounds of food in its first year and close to triple that last year, Gowland says. He hasn’t made any profit on the festival, but that’s not really what it’s about, he says.

“I just want to make a difference and cause a scene.”

The 2014 Midsummer’s Dream festival takes place in Gage Park on Saturday, Aug. 16. It runs from noon to 9:30 p.m. and admission is free. For more information, visit the festival’s website.


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