The Bruce Peninsula Orchid Festival is held in Tobermory on Chi-Sinteb’dek Road. The festival promotes the preservation of the orchids that grow in the area. It includes educational programs, activities, and more that celebrate the stunning flowers that grow throughout the Bruce Peninsula.
The main street tradition since 1948, the Kincardine Scottish Pipe Band Parade begins at 8 AM with the sound of bagpipes as spectators line Queen Street. The event is rain or shines with traditional Scottish bands heading from Victoria Park to Quinn Plaza. They take a short break before returning to Victoria Park following the same route. A concert is then performed in the park. Later, as the sun starts to set, the Phantom Piper plays from the Kincardine Lighthouse.
The Tobermory Winter Carnival, held in February, offers indoor and outdoor games, events, and live entertainment. Local non-profit organizations offer breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout the festival. Be sure to check out the cardboard boat races, snow events, and indoor activities designed for the entire family.
Sauble Beach Sandfest, held in August each year, is a favorite in the area. It is a full week of live music, a sandcastle building contest, games, children’s activities, and a classic car show. During the day, families work on elaborate sandcastles in hopes of winning cash prizes. At night, the sandcastle area becomes a free concert with an amazing laser light that can be viewed from the beach or from a boat anchored off the shore in Lake Huron.
Huron Fringe Birding Festival, held the last weekend in May and the first weekend in June, includes educational information about the birds and other wildlife on the Bruce Peninsula. You can learn about the black bears, piping plovers, bird banding, and more. The event is held at MacGregor Point Provincial Park.
MS Chi-Cheemaun Festival celebrates one of the area’s biggest tourist attractions, the MS Chi Cheemaun ferry. The first festival was held in 1975 to celebrate the arrival of a new ferry that runs from Tobermory to Manitoulin Island. The weekend begins with the J.P. Johnstone Slo-Pitch Tournament, a children’s art contest, and live entertainment. There is a pancake breakfast, food booth, and beer garden throughout the one-day festival which ends with a fireworks display. Activities include face painting, games the Ladies Auxiliary Pie Sale, an antique car display on the dock, and a Whitefish Dinner. On Sunday, an ecumenical church service is held followed by the Mini Golf Tournament and presentation of trophies for the slo-pitch tournament. The festival is held at 116 Maple Golf Crescent.
Held in September, the Lighthouse Blues Festival has been named one of the top 100 festivals in Ontario. The festival celebrates the strong influence of blues on the local music scene. The Beach Pavilion and the Windsor Hotel, since demolished, were frequented by many well-known blues artists over the years, including James Cotton. In 2006, a blues society developed, created as a chapter of a London-based society but eventually becoming the independent Canada South Blues Society. In 2009, Rick and Marilyn Clarke, Brad and Craig Kirkconnell, Mike Brough, and Rob MacLeod sat down to plan for a blues festival to be held in the parking lot of The Bruce. In 2010, the first Lighthouse Blues Festival was held in July with bands such as Breakwater Blues Band, Dark Angel Blues Band, David Rotundo, Chris Murphy Blues Band, and the Bluesbells to name a few. The festival benefits the Kincardine District Lions Club. In addition to live music, there is also a Saturday Street Festival with a petting zoo, a British sportscar display, an Artist Row, and an area for children.
The concept of the Southampton Marine Heritage Festival began in 2011 when a group of like-minded individuals decided to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Chantry Island Lighthouse and Housekeepers Cottage restoration. The first event included speeches by local politicians as well as stories about the restoration. Those were followed by family fun that celebrates the marine heritage of Southampton. The next year, which was also the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, the festival’s events centered around that milestone in history with cardboard boat races, a cannon demonstration by the Royal George Society as well as events families enjoyed year before. Each year the festival has grown larger and is a favorite for locals. Events are held at the Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre and Pioneer Park.
Nawash Pow Wow is held in August and evolved from the Grass Dance Societies that developed in the early 1800s. The dances provided warriors with the chance to show tribe members through dance the brave deeds they had accomplished. As reservations were established throughout Turtle Island, these tribal customs were outlawed with only the Grass Dance permitted. The songs performed have been passed down from generations long gone. Visitors are invited to bring lawn chairs and are reminded that all dances performed are considered sacred. Most dances occur in a circle which represents unity, and dancers often move in the clockwise pattern of the sun. The Pow Wow is held at Cape Croker Park.
Lucknow’s Music in the Fields, held in August, began as a Kinsmen event, starting with just 1,200 attendees and growing to more than 8,000 in recent years. The event is held on a farm purchased by the organization and offers camping as well as the concert experience. Called Graceland as an homage to former owner Grace Hopf, the concert venue allows you to choose your own camping spot and all proceeds go to charity.
Port Elgin Pumpkin Fest is held in early October each year, created when the Town of Port Elgin decided to create an event to extend the tourist season. The first festival, “The Great Pumpkin Event,” was a competition where the largest pumpkin received an award. By 1988, the town had joined the World Pumpkin Confederation and the event was renamed the “Port Elgin Pumpkinfest.” The first event had 200 visitors but in recent years, there have been over 30,000. In addition to the annual weigh-in, there is a bingo, celebrity seed spitting contest, pumpkin carving contest, home and business decorating contest, a Cinderella’s Carriage Car Show, a pumpkin pie sale, dance, and the Harvest Star competition.