Samba Squad has music lovers dancing at the opening to Sunfest, but for some, it was the food that brought them to Victoria Park

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London’s annual summer festival, Sunfest, kicked off with a bang Thursday as vendors and musicians from around the world arrived to celebrate with Londoners.

The high-energy Samba Squad got the party started as adults and kids danced and passersby were drawn to the stage.

The “percussion posse,” made up of about 16 members, filled the crowd with their infectious music as they pumped out rhythmic beats accompanied with vibrant vocals.

On the other festival stage, WOR, from the Flanders region of Belgium, took tunes from the 18th Century to another level as they injected modern sound into classical music. Playing film-score worthy songs, the quintet transported audience members to another era and even got some people humming along.

Gord Smithers, who was watching WOR, said he has been coming to the festival since it’s first year in 1995 and looks forward to the music the most.

“I’ve never missed one,” said Smithers. “And it’s just gotten bigger with more days and more people. It’s great.”

The various food vendors left wisps of smoke lingering in the air as smells from around the world filled the sidewalks of Victoria Park. For some festival-goers, food is the main reason to be there.

Ami Patel, a third-year Western student, had never been to Sunfest but decided this was the year to go. Finishing off a plate of nacho fries, she said she wasn’t finished.

“I’m definitely going to go back for more (food),” she said.

Omar Hamam, owner of the Middle-Eastern restaurant Barakat, said this is his third year at the festival. Last year, he brought double of what he thought he needed and still ran out.

“This year I’m loaded,” he said.

Taking the idea from a visit to Disneyland, Hamam sells turkey legs at the festival with an employee dressed as Fred Flintsone cooking them up.

“People love the turkey legs,” said Hamam. “They’re a hit.”

The festival attracts people from London, but also intrigues those from outside of the city and even outside of the country.

Chiquita Chatterjee is a doctoral student at Western and planned her flights home to Calcutta, India, around the festival.

“Ever since I heard about it last summer I’ve wanted to come,” said Chatterjee.

While the weather was hot and sunny Thursday, the weekend forecast calls for rain with the bulk of it hitting London Friday and chances of showers Saturday and Sunday.

But rain or shine, Sunfest endures.

shmehta@postmedia.com

twitter.com/ShaluatLFPress

— — —

IF YOU GO

What: The 23rd annual TD Sunfest, featuring 36 music groups from around the world.

When: Continues through Sunday, 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. with music starting at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Where: Victoria Park.

Admission: Free, although donations accepted.

More info: Visit sunfest.on.ca for more about performers, schedules, stage locations, arts and craft vendors.


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