Buskers Bask in Adulation At Busk On The Block Festival in Walkerville

(Western Australian lawyer Tarrabell Murphy, turned busker, preparing to deal with 20 hula hoops as part of the act of Zap Circus at Busk On The Block Busker Festival in Walkerville / Windsor, Ontario, on Friday, August 9, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.)

If there was a common theme in this year’s Walkerville busker festival, known as Busk On The Block, the city’s only festival of its kind, it had to be taking the hundreds of spectators to the stars, or about as sky high as the acrobats, jugglers and aerial fabric climbers could go. Doing unimaginable and breathtaking feats of derring-do, one of the acts, Venezuelan chair climber, the affable Katay Santos, seemed to speak for all the others when he continually cautioned against worrying, he is, he reminded the audience, a professional.

Juggler Katay Santos

Juggler Katay Santos juggling everything from chairs to Chinese Pots on his head and body at Busk On The Block Busker Festival in Walkerville / Windsor, Ontario, on Friday, August 9, 2019. Santos says he bought the pot in China (pause) town. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

Busker Katay Santos

Busker Katay Santos preparing to balance a chair on his head during Busk On The Block Busker Festival in Walkerville / Windsor, Ontario, on Friday, August 9, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

The word is kind of his calling card. So too is his mastery of the horse whip able to turn a moving toy upside down from less than twenty feet.

Gasps of awe emanated throughout the performance of Western Australian lawyer Tarrabell Murphy and environmental scientist Rusty Hammond, traveling the world, 30 countries so far, as Zap Circus. Standing on Rusty’s shoulders, Tarrabell, now almost 12 feet in the air, worked a burning hula hoop. Of course, these two stars from down under are professionals and it sure showed, including the husband and wife banter they offered between feats.

Zap Circus performing at Busk On The Block

Zap Circus buskers and husband and wife duo Tarrabell Murphy and Rusty Hammond juggling during Busk On The Block Busker Festival in Walkerville / Windsor, Ontario, on Friday, August 9, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

Rusty Hammond Zap Circus

Western Australian environmental scientist turned busker Rusty Hammond using his chin to balance a towering torch during Busk On The Block Busker Festival in Walkerville / Windsor, Ontario, on Friday, August 9, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

Tarrabell Murphy Zap Circus

This former lawyer from Western Australia, Tarrabell Murphy, now a busker and part of Zap Circus, performing at the Busk On The Block Busker Festival in Walkerville / Windsor, Ontario, on Friday, August 9, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

With the help of a twenty-foot performance tower, Erikka Johnson, the Starlight Vigilante, most likely went the highest of all the buskers, moving about acrobatically using only hanging fabric.

Starlight Vigilante performing at Busk On The Block

Aerial acrobat Erikka Johnson pleasing the crowd as she performs twenty-feet in the air at Busk On The Block Busker Festival in Walkerville / Windsor, Ontario, on Friday, August 9, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

Starlight Vigilante performing at Busk On The Block

Aerialist Erikka Johnson, the Starlight Vigilante, spending most of her act twenty feet in the air during Busk On The Block Busker Festival in Walkerville / Windsor, Ontario, on Friday, August 9, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

While juggler Lukas Stark didn’t exactly climb skyward, he did toss flame burning juggling sticks into the air but claimed to be a better mind reader than juggler. Few in the audience seemed to disagree, calling it false modesty, which is really what busking is all about. The buskers pretend over and over that they really aren’t all that good and then, with everyone watching, do things that almost defy gravity and logic.

Lukas Stark at Busk On The Block

Juggler Lukas Stark commences to juggle three flaming torches during Busk On The Block Busker Festival in Walkerville / Windsor, Ontario, on Friday, August 9, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

It is entertainment that also can be painful looking. No where was this more evident than with Stark walking on broken glass. It was actually seeing a performer do just this trick that started him on the road to being a busker. As a child, living in Ottawa and visiting its Canada Day celebrations he was enthralled with a broken glass walker. Despite his father telling him not to even attempt to replicate the walking, somehow he did and is now a professional on the busker circuit.

Crowd Watching Zap Circus at Busk On The Block

A crowd watching Zap Circus perform at Busk On The Block Busker Festival in Walkerville / Windsor, Ontario, on Friday, August 9, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

The smiles on organizers Jay and Kaela Henderson’s faces told the tale of how successful the event has become. A slight organizational change actually prompted smiles on the guests as well. The acts were staggered to eliminate any downtime between what goes on in the Motor City Credit Union Pitch and what happens in the Walkerville Brewery Pitch. Once one act concluded, the next was warming up in the adjacent pitch. Both pitches are on Argyle Road, north of Wyandotte, in front or to the side of the Walkerville Brewery.

Children enjoying Busk On The Block

Children delighting in the antics of busker Katay Santos during his performance at Busk On The Block Busker Festival in Walkerville / Windsor, Ontario, on Friday, August 9, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

Families enjoying Busk On The Block

Families are mesmerized by Busker Katay Santos during his performance at Busk On The Block Busker Festival in Walkerville / Windsor, Ontario, on Friday, August 9, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

As Kaela told Eyes on Windsor, the visitors were most appreciative of the new staggering format.

All of the acts will be back at it, or above it, ground that is, all day Saturday starting at 11am with one bonus addition. Cobbler Jay, the popular local juggler, has been booked for a 7:45 set Saturday evening.

Busk On The Block is free although spectators are asked to contribute as they can to each of the performers. Acts earn their pay through these contributions.

And the event also has food, from Walkerville Tavern burgers to the ever-popular offerings of Butchers on the Block. Partner Brian John tells Eyes on Windsor, his pulled pork with “Mac ‘N’ Chz was the leading choice among his customers. Other stands offered non-alcoholic refreshment.

Butchers on the Block Food Truck

Butchers On The Block Food Truck serving food at Busk On The Block Busker Festival in Walkerville / Windsor, Ontario, on Friday, August 9, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

Burchers On The Block Brian John

Butchers on the Block food truck partner Brian John preparing to serve another customer during Busk On The Block Busker Festival in Walkerville / Windsor, Ontario, on Friday, August 9, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

An additional, adults only event will run at 10pm Saturday at the Walkerville Brewery. Busk at the Brewery will have libations and “outrageous stunts and adult-only performances under the direction of The Monsters of Schlock: a two man demolition derby known all around the world as the ‘brothers of bodily abuse.’”

The Monster of Schlock's Orbax lifts a bucket connected to his eyelids by chains and hooks.

Orbax from the Monsters of Schlock lifts a bucket using only chains hooked on his lower eyelids during Buskerville Fest in Walkerville, Ontario, on August 11, 2018. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

Tickets for Busk at the Brewery are $10 each and can purchased on Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/busk-at-the-brewery-tickets-65170314164 or at the Walkerville Brewery. More details about Busk On The Block can be found at buskontheblock.com or on the Eyes On Windsor Busk On The Block event page.

Robert Tuomi

Article by Robert Tuomi

For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.