Kempenfest was founded in 1971 by a group of artists at the Barrie Art Club, with ties to other service clubs like Kiwanis. Originally held at Molson’s Brewery Park (later Molson Park), Kempenfest started as “just a handful of artists displaying their paintings on snow fencing,” says the marketing director for Kempenfest, Tom Aikins. Now in its 47th year, Kempenfest has since expanded to Barrie’s gorgeous and bustling waterfront.
With the need for more food and beverage operations, more service clubs came on the scene, says Aikins. “It’s all run now by six or seven service clubs and non-profit groups, including the YMCA, as a fundraiser. They raise about $250,000 a year through their various projects.” The expansion of Kempenfest also brought about changes in entertainment, according to Aikins. “The need to provide entertainment to those in the beer gardens came along. Originally it was just local bands, and it’s expanded over the years, thanks to Molson and OLG and their sponsorship.”
Appealing to a cross-section of crowds
Kempenfest has quickly become a multi-faceted event. Musical entertainment and family fun activities have since been added to the essential arts, crafts, and antiques markets. “We’ve tried, over the years, to appeal to as broad a cross-section of consumers as we could,” says Aikins. “We try, with our programming on the main stage, to appeal to different audiences each night. Friday night is current rock, Saturday is classic rock, Sunday is country, and Monday is oldies.” (Look for
a special surprise for Canada’s 150th on Friday night with The Trews doing their hit song ‘The Highway of Heroes’!)
While the festival itself is free to attend, all evening shows on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday require paid admission. But note that Monday’s show is free, since it’s a daytime show.
So what about the arts and crafts?
The vendor list is more limited this year than in previous years, says Aikins. “The arts and crafts vendors are at about 275, which is down probably 75 from the past years. We reduced last year and this year due to park construction at Centennial. To achieve that, they tightened up their criteria a bit, so you’ll see more arts than you will crafts, if that makes sense.”
Kempenfest kicks off with The Trews on Friday, August 4 at 8pm.
Exhibits are open Saturday, August 5 to Monday, August 7 from 10am-6pm.
For more detailed information on tickets, vendors, and other exciting Kempenfest activities, visit