Kyle Sipkens is one tall drink of water. Six foot-two in flats, he towers imposingly when in heels or, in his case, stilts. Sipkens, with a red clown nose affixed over his seemingly permanent grin, works the crowd, and the joke "High-five me" works on every youngster, and oldster, who stretches to the impossible task. Sipkens is part of BuskerFest and he is pumped for the event. He scratches his head (hard to tell if it is real or for comic effect because he also never drops his slightly squeeky clown voice in case an eavesdropping child's illusions be shattered) before saying that this is his ninth stint at BuskerFest. Sipkens is a professional stilt-walker, but BuskerFest is extra special because of the funds it raises for Epilepsy Toronto. Sipkens' sister has epilepsy.
The media launch of BuskerFest coincides with a barbecue for 500 children from local community day camps, and the sampling of acts is skewed to be family-friendly. The kids are giddy with delight, and it is infectious. A hip-hop dancer spins and pops; two almost-scary puppets lead a sing-along to the Addams Family
theme song; two giant seagulls clown charmingly; a troupe of tumblers who made it to the finals of America's Got Talent
amaze; and a 10-year-old singer does a credible rendition of a Janis Joplin classic -- though the growled lyrics "I once had a daddy who said he'd give me everything in sight, oh yes he did" are more Toddlers & Tiaras
than child prodigy.
Of course, BuskerFest does also happen at night, when the acts are not necessarily more risqué, but definitely a little edgier, with fire acts, contortionists and more exposed skin. It would be intriguing to see what a looker like Sipkens could do in, say, the Pride parade -- the mind boggles with size jokes -- but the joy he is bringing to the kids at the launch is no small feat, and it's worth visiting BuskerFest to collect some smiles of your own.
Scotiabank BuskerFest runs till Sun, Aug 26 throughout the St Lawrence Market neighbourhood. torontobuskerfest.com
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