6 things to do at Open Streets Hamilton

James Street North will be closed to vehicle traffic from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m on Sunday for Open Streets Hamilton.

James Street North closed to cars from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday for street festival

Aasir and Taleen Diab colour on the James North sidewalk during Open Streets Hamilton last year. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Sunday is Open Streets Hamilton, that once-in-blue-moon occasion when city residents can walk, run, play, dance or simply sit on James Street without fear of getting smacked by a steed on four wheels. 

"Really, it's to repurpose our streets into a shared space for community to make use of," said Sunil Angrish, coordinator of Open Streets Hamilton. "The motto we use is 'Make the Streets Your Playground.'

With the lineup of activities and events that Open Streets has in store, Angrish's instructions won't be hard to follow. There will be three stages of music, an art market and activities for families with children.

Since James Street will be closed from King Street to Guise Street — a 2-km expanse — there will be plenty of room for more spontaneous events.

(Staring contest, anyone?)

As a preview for the event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., here's a (far from exhaustive) list of things you can do on the road during Open Streets Hamilton on Sunday.

Entertain the kids

The middle of a busy downtown thoroughfare isn't normally high on the list of places to entertain the youngsters. Sunday is a notable exception. Open Streets will feature a barrel full of especially-for-kids and kid friendly programming.

The YMCA, for example, is bringing its Y on Wheels program to James Street, hosting a number of activities for the children and their families. Those will include a scavenger hunt, in which participants will compete to find items from nature, and also Latin-funk dance classes (more on that later).

The Y on Wheels crew will be running parachutes games — yes, the ones that involve that rainbow-patterned sheet that can induce laughter even among the surliest of kids.

"Parachute games are always a huge hit at every event we go to," said Y on Wheels coordinator Amber Aquin. "We get 30 kids playing with the parachute all day long."


Sunday is chance to live out everybody's favourite Martha and The Vandellas tune. James Street North will be ground zero for a number of dance instruction sessions and demonstrations.

One group that's bringing the boogie is Mountain-based studio Defining Movement Dance, which will be running demonstrations on James Street at Colbourne, in front of Christ's Church Cathedral. 

"We'll be doing 15-minute classes in salsa, hip hop and socsa and there'll be classes for kids," said Josh Taylor, the company's co-owner and one of its instructors (By the way, that last genre he mentioned, "it's like a fitness class to soca music.")

Don't want to join a class? No problem. Show the world your own moves, Travolta, and burn up the asphalt.

Arts and crafts

Toronto playwright and actress Denise Mader will be running PlayDoh pie-making sessions. (Supplied)

Already a hub for arts in the city, James Street North will surrender even more space to creative-types, professional or otherwise. Revellers will have the opportunity to doodle on murals, draw with chalk on the sidewalk, get their faces painted and make pies out of the PlayDoh.

Yes, as a preview for her upcoming Hamilton Fringe show This One, Toronto playwright and actress Denise Mader is holding demos on how to make pies out of the coloured children's play-clay. (No, you're not supposed to eat your creation, no matter how nostalgic you are for the taste of that gritty, salty goo.)

Less experimental folks may wish just to peruse or buy some art. There'll be booths, with vendors selling their wares, for that, too.

Hike in high heels (or watch others try)

Open Streets Hamilton is hosting the city's fourth annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes. Participants, women and men, will don high heels and promenade on James Street, trying their best to stay upright.

And they're not doing it just for kicks: The event is a fundraiser YWCA's transitional living program, which provides support for women face poverty and domestic violence.

The pump parade starts at 1 p.m. in front of Liuna Station, at James Street North and Murray Street East. 

Watch the McMaster team strut their stuff in its promotional video:


On any given Sunday, playing touch football on James Street North would be ill-advised. Open Streets changes the game. There'll be a touch football match on James Street at Strachan running all day long.

If passing the pigskin's not quite your speed, there's street hockey — or rather, hockey on the rooftop of Jackson Square, to be more precise? In any case, there'll be no need to yell, "car!"

Lots of other things

The options for things to do will be as open as the street. Want to ride a bike? Go ahead. Read a book? Knock yourself out. Start a drum circle? You get the picture.

For more information about Open Streets Hamilton, including a long list of events, go to Openstreetshamilton.ca.