Humans of Hillside: Watching the watchers at Guelph’s music festival


A festival for the Guelph community 

This past weekend, Guelph Lake Conservation Area was transformed into the maze of bandstands, tantalizing food trucks, and tents housing various workshops that form Hillside Festival — Guelph’s annual summer music festival. The goings-on provided a veritable buffet of things to see, taste, touch, smell, and hear.

Mariah Bridgeman | The Ontarion

Just as interesting were the herds of people wandering in and out of the streets, stopping to watch shows and visit vendors. They came in all ages, shapes, and sizes — babies with noise-blocking headphones wheeled past elderly couples wearing hearing aids while children pulled tie-dye-clad parents towards ice cream.

Mariah Bridgeman | The Ontarion

The accessible seating tent for those with special needs was never empty, nor were the picnic benches and grassy fields where groups of friends sprawled out to soak up the sun. Couples could be seen stealing the occasional kiss.

Once in a while, an individual could even be spotted seated confidently alone, content to be the sole member of their own party of one.

These people, all from drastically different walks of life, came together to share and create the experience that is Hillside Festival, which begs the question, what is it that brought them all there?

Mariah Bridgeman | The Ontarion

Music festivals have been around a long time and take place across the world; festivals like Hillside pull audiences for many different reasons. Hillside Festival attendees provided The Ontarion with plenty of reasons for coming. Answers changed from person to person and even within the same family; one family member found the eclectic foods to be a highlight while another named the variety of bands and music as a draw.

However, there was only one answer that was mentioned by every single person: a sense of community.

Alia Hazinen has been coming to Hillside Festival since she was a child. She enjoys the sense of community. Her friend, Leslie Palaheimo, has only ever gone to this music festival, and describes the happy, friendly feeling as the factor that brings her back.

Mariah Bridgeman | The Ontarion

The McIvor and Grace family have been coming to Hillside for a grand total of about 40 years between the four of them, many of those years spent as volunteers. They, like many other volunteers, are enthusiastic to describe the experience as exciting and inclusive.

As they speak, groups of friends, family, and past acquaintances come over to catch up or decide to join in an activity together, and in workshops strangers meet and bond over shared interests.

Nearly everyone present is from the City of Guelph and its surrounding areas, giving a sense of shared experiences, making everyone more open to conversation.

Amongst the Hillside Festival devotees there are also rookies new to the experience, but nearly all have come, as Jess Beagan says, on recommendation of a friend, adding to the connectedness.

Mariah Bridgeman | The Ontarion

Notably, in the crowds around bandstands and tables of people having lunch there is hardly a phone to be seen — an oddity in the modern world. Perhaps, in a time so digitized and online, events such as Hillside Festival are important in providing people a chance to make the increasingly rare but treasured phenomenon that is a real connection.

If you missed Hillside and your chance to win passes with The Ontarion, don’t worry! We’ll have another giveaway for Hillside Inside, this festival is scheduled to take place from February 9 to 11, 2018. 

Photo by Mariah Bargeman/The Ontarion.