When Anahareo Doelle moved back to St. John’s after years abroad as a performing aerialist, she was immediately struck by the lack of circus culture that she had grown used to. The idea to create a high-level circus festival in her hometown began to form.

“My dream was like, ‘Oh, if we had all these amazing artists and workshops, I’d want to go to that festival,’” she said. Now years later, the St. John’s International CircusFest is set to take over the city for a few brief but action-packed days.

The festival runs from September 27th to 30th and is hosted by Wonderbolt Circus and performers from as far away as Finland will be in town to dazzle audiences.

The opening night show at the LSPU Hall features the 7 Fingers, a Montreal troop. “When I was in Montreal last week and I told people they were coming, they were like, ‘Oh! Tell me more! If this is serious and you’re managing to get them here the first year, that’s amazing!’”

The next night the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra and Montreal’s National Circus School will be at the Arts and Culture Centre. Then the festival moves to the CLB Armoury on the 29th for a cabaret show with international guests. On the final night, Ireland’s Fidget Feet will take to the stage at the CLB.

CircusFest isn’t just limited to performances, people can also catch panel discussions on issues like expanding circuses across Canada and potential social outreach. There will also be workshops for artists to take part in, like the aerial hoop. And on the 30th there will be a free Family Fun day for the public at Atlantic Place.

Doelle often visits Montreal, where she’s surrounded by circus culture and the city also has great festivals, like Complètement Cirque. It made her want to bring something like that to St. John’s. “I thought the best way to do it would be to have a festival here on the Atlantic side of the country. And then when I started talking to people about it, there was a lot of interest because a lot of circus is concentrated in Quebec.”

The timing is perfect because St. John’s is a popular destination right now, “It’s a real kind of win-win because they’re drawn to this exotic kind of place,” she said. And CircusFest is already drawing a crowd, with groups from Nova Scotia to British Columbia planning to come check out the shows and participate in the workshops. “It will be really a nice representation of circuses across Canada.”

This is CircusFest’s first year and Doelle is already planning to make it an annual event with the possibility to grow.

“I really see this as being one of the festivals in the world that people are going to want to come to. I really think it has the potential. And in Canada especially there’s very few festivals like this being offered. And companies are really wanting to present themselves and show their stuff.”

More information about the St. John’s International CircusFest can be found at the website: https://www.stjohnscircusfest.com/