As the Algoma Fall Festival celebrates its 40th anniversary year, we look back on some of the great moments the festival has had throughout the years. While the first year of the festival was in 1973, 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the festival’s incorporation.
In 1972, members of the Chamber of Commerce started to talk about the idea of creating a summer music and arts festival to boost tourism to the city. A small group of people from the Chamber of Commerce, the arts and education communities, and the general public was formed to work on this idea. The Algoma Arts Festival Association was created, “to promote, stimulate, and facilitate the nurturing, awareness and appreciation of the Arts through performances, exhibitions and educational activities.” The first board of directors was elected, along with the festival’s first president, Mrs. Harriet Black.
The Ontario Arts Council sent a consultant to an AAFA board meeting that fall. When Nicholas Goldschmidt’s plane landed, he was immediately taken by Northern Ontario’s fall colours. According to Past President Richard McCutcheon, Goldschmidt told everyone at the meeting that “there was a fall festival already in existence” in Sault Ste Marie, and that “you just need to add some music and dance.” Other practical considerations such as artist scheduling were also taken into consideration, the board was convinced, and the first Fall Festival was held in 1973.
Since its first year running, the festival has managed to bring a diverse array of artists across multiple disciplines. It has been able to bring famous musicians such as: Wynton Marsalis, Dizzy Gillespie, Bruce Cockburn, Natalie McMaster, K’Naan, Nikki Yanofsky, the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble, Ashley MacIsaac, Carlos Montoya, and many, many more. Various Canadian writers, such as W.O. Mitchell, W.P. Kinsella, Mordecai Richler, and Northrop Frye have also given readings. Entertainment acts have covered everything from mime, with Marcel Marceau, to comedy with the Royal Canadian Air Farce, over to Chinese Magic Theatre, children’s entertainment such as Sharon, Lois and Bram and Robert Munsch, and various puppet theatres. The festival has also presented numerous art exhibitions, such as the Group of Seven, Emily Carr, Lawren Harris, and Sault Ste. Marie’s own Ken Danby. The festival has even commissioned original musical work in the past.
The festival has been successful in overcoming the challenge of bringing large dance and theatre troupes to our area of Northern Ontario, including: the Canadian Brass, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and the National Ballet of Canada as well as various orchestras and dance troupes. Various levels of government, corporate and community partners, and others, realized the importance of creating a strong cultural and artistic presence in Sault Ste. Marie, and have made it possible to bring groups which before only stopped in larger Canadian cities.
Many of these famous and fascinating Fall Festival performance artists have taken part in our education program, and held master class workshops or various other learning programs for students in collaboration with the local school boards. This is important not only to foster learning, but also to help encourage art appreciation and creativity in the community.
The Fall Festival sincerely thanks the community for its continued support. It has been our privilege to help foster art, music, and cultural appreciation in the community. We look forward to another 40 years of great cultural performances and hope to see you there in the seat next to us!
Remembering Nicholas Goldschmidt