What do you think of when you think of St. Thomas, Ontario? Perhaps it’s trains, which makes sense since it used to be known as Canada’s Railway City and is home to the longest small town train station in Ontario. Maybe you think of Jumbo the Elephant, whose famed story came to a tragic end on the very railroads that brought the town to life. However, St. Thomas might have to change its moniker to Canada’s Mural City after the debut of the Track to the Future Mural Festival. The 1-day event kicked off in mid-July 2022 with live art, food, and loads of fun.
What is the Track to the Future Mural Festival?
In 2019, Railway City Tourism launched the Track to the Future Mural Project in a colourful way to celebrate the city’s past, present, and future. Other integral community partners to the city-wide project included Andrew Gunn Consulting, young & free press, and generous financial support from the Estate of Donna Vera Evans Bushell. Then 2020 and 2021 happened, and we all know how that story played out. However, with the world re-opening in 2022, the brand new Track to the Future Mural Festival was the perfect way to showcase St. Thomas’ beautiful outdoor art gallery and bring the community back together again in a safe and inclusive environment. Together with the St. Thomas Economic Development Corporation, the inaugural free community event came to life on July 16, 2022 from 11am to 8pm. I was fortunate to be invited to the vibrant event and can say it was a resounding success!
The feature event was 6 live mural paintings at the 5 main festival hubs, as well as the historic Horton Farmers’ Market, Railway City Brewing, and various points along the Whistlestop Trail. Celebrated artists Andrew Lewis, Denial, Derkz, Emilie Darlington, and Steph Boutari created large-scale masterpieces throughout the day and festival-goers could interact with them as they worked.
In addition to the live mural paintings, the Track to the Future Mural Festival had food trucks, beer gardens, a variety of live music for kids and adults, buskers, and pop-up events. Some of the 2022 performers included The Pairs, The Swing of Things, Cool Shoes Trio, and The Caverners Beatles Tribute. There was also a digital passport that participants could use to explore and interact virtually with each location, with prizes to be won. Many downtown and other local small businesses provided discounts and interactive art projects for people to enjoy as they moved from mural to mural to add to the day’s delights.
The annual Beerlesque and Carniv-Ale Show also made a return after a 2-year covid-hiatus. The 19+ ticketed dark-circus event had beer, cider, wine, and distilleries from around Ontario, talented artisan vendors, live music, and circus-themed entertainers. Located at the Elgin County Railway Museum, the unique historic venue is reason enough to attend. The Kate Channer Band brought the energy in their set, playing covers that the audience rocked out to. Kobbler Jay and Corbin the Charming Cheat amazed the crowd with their magical skills, and Ruby Moon Burlesque and Sassy Ray Burlesque & Cabaret mesmerized everyone with their physical feats.
Is This a Family-Friendly Event?
The Track to the Future Mural Festival is an awesome event for singles, couples, and families. There were several activities for children, including live mural viewings, an interactive Splash’N Boots performance, sidewalk chalk, popsicles and snacks, and DIY art workshops in various shops.
Where is St. Thomas, Ontario?
St. Thomas is around 30 km south of London, Ontario and roughly 2 hours from Toronto. It’s also only 15 minutes away from Port Stanley, a cottage town on the north shore of Lake Erie.
What Else Can I Do in St. Thomas?
Outside of events like the Track to the Future Mural Festival, there are many other activities and attractions to keep you busy in St. Thomas. This small town provides all sorts of options for a full weekend itinerary. From visiting Jumbo the Elephant and the one-of-a-kind nearby park, to checking out the cute downtown boutique shops, to learning all about Canada’s railway history and CASO Station, to searching for murals, there is no shortage of ways to see the city. One of my favourite Instagram accounts, Victorian_Vibes, highlights the beautiful old homes of St. Thomas (and other cities) and can be used in your own self-guided walking tour.
Join the Mailing List for Even More Travel
If you’re looking for travel tips, discounts and freebies, and my favourite podcasts, books, and more, hop on the mailing list! The newsletter goes out monthly and I promise to never send you spam or sell your information. Readers love getting the latest scoop and insights into the travel world – and I think you will too!