Long before there was YouTube, small-time entertainers boasting weird and wonderful talents had to take to the streets to draw an audience.

  • What: Scotiabank Buskerfest.
  • More than 60 street performers, including jugglers, magicians and acrobats
  • When: Four days this weekend, starting on Thursday afternoon
  • Where: Yonge Street between Richmond and Gerrard
  • ​Admission: Entry to the BuskerFest area is by donation, which benefits Epilepsy Toronto. Performers will also ask for donations, which is their sole source of compensation.

But the rise of YouTube hasn't totally wiped out busking. Dozens of performers are expected to descend on downtown Toronto for the city’s annual Scotiabank Buskerfest this weekend. 

Running Thursday until Sunday and centred around Yonge-Dundas Square, the festival will feature more than 75 contortionists, acrobats, jugglers, musicians and sidewalk artists from Canada and abroad.  

Admission to the festival is by donation, and audience members are encouraged to tip entertainers who put on a good show. (It’s the only way they get paid, after all.)

Balancing act

Australian Reuben Kuan, who performs under the stage name Reuben DotDotDot, is performing at the Scotiabank Buskerfest in downtown Toronto this week. (Cory Ruf/CBC)

Yonge Street is closed Thursday from Richmond to Gerrard streets and will re-open at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday for the festival. Vehicle traffic will be able to cross Yonge Street at Queen, Dundas and Gerrard streets, organizers say.

To get a preview of the antics that will be on display, take a look at the following videos — from YouTube, of course — from five acts who’ll be busking for both your cheers and your change over the next few days. 

Kamikaze Fireflies

L.A.’s Kamikaze Fireflies have a perfect name for a circus troupe that performs death-defying balancing acts and wears bright, colourful costumes. But you can judge that for yourself.

Jo the Chalk Chick

Jo the Chalk Chick lives in Toronto, hails from Montreal and creates elaborate images — some cartoon-ish, others more realistic — using the sidewalk as her canvas and chalk as her paint. Take a look. 

Reuben DotDotDot

More than a few Buskerfest acts perform tricks that should come with a "Do not try this at home" proviso. Reuben DotDotDot most certainly falls into this category. A Cirque du Soleil alumnus, the Australian acrobat has a repertoire of tricks that includes balancing on one hand while atop a 1.5-storey stilt. Yikes. 

The Rubberband Boy Travelling Spectacular

New Zealand’s Shay Horay has made something of a career fooling aruond with the elastics. During his shows, he wraps 10 or more of them around his face, turning up his nose and scrunching his ears in the process.

POOM-CHA

What would a busker festival be without a one-person band playing multiple instruments at the same time? Ticking off that box for Toronto’s Buskerfest this year is Lorenzo Gianamario Galli — also known as POOM-CHA — whose sounds fuses the ancient swirl of eastern European folk and the relentless drive and do-it-yourself spirit of punk rock.