They're from all walks of life, different continents and boast different talents. But the buskers at the 18th annual International Busker's Festival have one thing in common — their work is a calling.
"It chooses you," said Ottawa resident Brian Wilson.
One-half of the Cowguys act, Wilson, who began performing at age 13, earned enough money to put himself through the University of Ottawa, but it didn't occur to him to do it as a career until after school.
Busking has given him the opportunity to travel all over Asia and Europe, said Wilson, now 32.
"I just kind of fell into it," agreed Melbourne, Australia, native Gracie Billings.
Billings, who performed as a part of the four-person acrobatics team Flameoz, trained in Australia and Beijing. While she loves seeing new places, the busking life isn't always an easy one, she said.
"There's not a lot of routine in your life," she said.
The job also has costs for Wilson.
"It cuts into family time," he said.
But the positives, including making people laugh and spending time outside, make up for it, said Wilson's partner, Nick Miller.
They might do comedy, percussion and acrobatics — including a difficult 12-foot head slide — but travelling is one of the hardest parts of the job for David Chapman and Anthony Coleman, known as Peter Rabbit and L'il Countrie.
For Chapman, a New York City resident who has performed since he was six years old, it's just a part of the lifestyle. "It's something that makes me feel good," he said. "Street performances are the rawest form of entertainment. People didn't buy a ticket, so it's harder for you to keep their attention. They're not committed."
Chad Mills and his family headed down to Sparks Street to check out the festival for the first time.
"It was pretty impressive," said the Ottawa resident.
The five-day festival, which wrapped up on Sparks Street Monday, is "one of the hot spots for street performers from all over the world," Miller said.
"It's great to have one of the best busker festivals right on our doorstep," Wilson said.