While major redevelopment of the Ontario Place site continues, the waterfront park will be partially open this Victoria Day long weekend to accommodate the Culinary Ontario Festival.
Taking place as part of festivities to celebrate Ontario’s 150th anniversary, the free festival will feature foods from around the province, beverage stations, art installations and live music.
The festival will take place on the West Island, the section of the park west of the marina.
While Ontario Place was shuttered in 2012 due to low attendance, sections of the park have remained in use for select events.
In September, in/future, a large art and music festival, took over the West Island for 10 days.
While this weekend’s festival won’t be to the same scale, it may evoke some memories for those who remember going to the park in its heyday to gaze up at the sky for the annual fireworks competitions.
However there’s a modern twist. Rather than looking up for fireworks, festival goers will be treated to a drone light show. Some 30 drones will dance and glow through the night sky to moves programmed in advance by Toronto startup Arrowonics.
Touted as an environmentally-friendly fireworks alternative, the drone show will be one of the first presented to a large public audience in Toronto.
While it won’t be as grand as some shows that have been staged elsewhere in the world incorporating hundreds of drones, Arrowonics says it will give a taste of things to come.
“The drone light show industry is still starting up but I think that there will be really incredible things in the future,” Everett Findlay, director of business development at Arrowonics, told CP24.
He said at the moment, a show can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks to plan, depending on how many drones need to be programmed. However once a show is programmed, it can be reused or even downloaded and executed in remote locations.
“I used to wake up on Canada Day and be really excited to go watch the fireworks show with my family,” Findlay said. “So I think it would be great to have the next generation of kids, especially the ones who are into tech and science and that sort of thing, be waking up and being really excited to go see the drone light show that night.”
So far Arrowonics has mainly done shows for private clients and events, but they are starting to plan for larger, public shows by investing in more drones and developing software that can handle more complex presentations.
In November, the company posted a video of a light show they put on at York University.
More drone shows are already being planned for Canada Day and beyond.
While engineering and science are the basis for the technology (the company is a spinoff from UofT’s Flight Systems and Control Lab), Findlay said art is as much a component of what the company does.
“If you’re working with a certain number of essentially pixels in the sky, how best to take an idea or a theme for a show and convert that into something the audience is really going to like – it’s a new challenge and it’s been really fun to learn how to tackle it,” he said.
While some people associate drones with military and privacy concerns, Findlay said Arrowonics exclusively works on light shows at the moment and he hopes that the company’s work can help show people that there are lots of positive applications for the technology.
“I think what our work hopefully is doing is dispelling some of that negative connotation,” he said. “We want to show that drones can be used for good and that they’re for entertainment and having an enjoyable evening.”
The drone show is slated to take place Saturday night, but could be moved to Sunday night if the weather is poor.
The Culinary Ontario Festival starts on May 19 and runs through Victoria Day (May 22).