Six years ago, the section of Richmond Road that runs through Westboro Village was torn up for road repairs, parking was virtually non-existent, and local merchants had their businesses compromised by the slow-moving construction.
So, Elaina Martin threw the first annual Westfest on an unpaved road with machinery moved over to the side in order to try and put some life back into Westboro.
Needless to say, Westboro’s been taken off the respirator.
New stores, condos, restaurants and developments have been popping up all over Westboro in the last few years, giving the area a major facelift, and transforming it into one of Ottawa’s hippest neighbourhoods to live in.
Last year, the festival drew in more than 100,000 people over five days, “and that includes a whole day we got rained out,” said festival producer Martin.
This year, the 100 per cent Canadian, music, visual, literary, performance art, dance, spoken word and theatre festival starts Friday and runs through Sunday.
“(Westfest) is now looked forward to as the annual community extravaganza/summer blockbuster,” laughs Martin.
“Residents, businesses and visitors alike plan family reunions and barbeques around it — all they have to do is walk down to the village, and they have a whole street full of great, free entertainment.”
While Westfest has undoubtedly been an essential catalyst in the development of the neighbourhood business and real-estate wise, Martin said that the most important effect of the festival has been its community-building capabilities.
“Westfest is really a ‘people’s festival.’ It has opened the eyes of the community in terms of its accessibility,” said Martin, speaking of the fact that the festival is free, all ages, and has traditionally promoted artists of diverse cultures and sexualities.
“People love coming to Westboro because of its sense of community and acceptance — every weekend, the streets are lined with multicultural visitors.”