The Bazaar Bizarre Streetcar wows the crowd

The streetcar-driving kitty with a load of passengers.

The streetcar-driving kitty with a load of passengers.

With the help of volunteers, flag bearers, two bands, and police escorts, we pushed the Bazaar Bizarre Streetcar through the Gerrard India Bazaar half dozen times last weekend. Our comical float worked its way through crowds who seemed surprised and delighted by our addition to Toronto’s Festival of South Asia.

It was a long weekend of work. After the movers loaded the dismantled float into a van and drove it from Cuppa Coffee Studios to the parking lot behind Flying Pony, we had less than a day to reassemble and set up the lights. We also built an ornamental tower as part of the Artisans’ Market.

Loading the dismantled streetcar float into a moving truck.

Loading the dismantled streetcar float into a moving truck.

A raccoon awaits assembly in the parking lot behind Flying Pony.

A raccoon awaits assembly in the parking lot behind Flying Pony.

This tower was designed to mark the artisans' market on Rhodes Ave. It ended up being a popular photo spot for festival goers.

This tower was designed to mark the artisans’ market on Rhodes Ave. It was a popular photo spot for festival goers.

We parked the streetcar on Gerrard Street East on Saturday afternoon. The bright colours and swaying balloons immediately garnered attention.

Early afternoon at the Festival of South Asia.

Early afternoon at the Festival of South Asia. The streetcar is topped with giant Toronto critters.

At 3:00, the band assembled for the first parade. Christine made the turbans.

At 3:00, the band led by Jason Kenemy assembled for the first parade.

Andrew and Rob with Festival of South Asia volunteer streetcar pushers.

Andrew and Rob with some volunteer streetcar pushers.

The streetcar project was conceived in part as way to deal with dead spots in the Festival of South Asia,which spans over a half dozen blocks. After we pushed the Bazaar Bizarre Streetcar further down the street, we would leave it for a couple of hours. People would head to that part of the street out of curiosity, take photos, and check out the shops and restaurants while they were there.

Here’s a time-lapse video of one of the stopovers. People really enjoyed the streetcar as an art piece and as a photo op:

Leaving the streetcar unattended was a bit nerve-wracking, but necessary if we were going to avoid heat stroke. On Sunday, the amazing stilt walker (from the nearby Zero Gravity Circus) found four children inside the streetcar. She loomed over the open-topped float and told them they shouldn’t be in there.

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The stilt walker led our parades and kept an eye on the float.

The colours were spectacular in the day, but people really got excited when the lights came on. All of the animals on top of the streetcar were outlined with LEDs, and festive lights were draped over the top of the streetcar. Best of all, interior spotlights lit up the windows, so the comic passengers looked as if they were really riding a night streetcar.

The streetcar in its electric glory.

The streetcar in its electric glory.

The Bazaar Bizarre Streetcar with windows glowing.

The Bazaar Bizarre Streetcar with windows glowing.

All the animals riding inside are associated with South Asian nations.

All the animals riding inside are associated with South Asian nations.

A jungle fowl keeps a watchful eye on its feline riding companions.

A jungle fowl keeps a watchful eye on its feline riding companions.

The Festival of South Asia gets busy on Saturday night. Thousands of folks descend on the neighbourhood for performances and especially food. It’s a real family event and a place where you see Toronto’s multiculturalism in full. We met two South Asian families, from New Jersey and D.C., who had stumbled across the festival and said there was nothing like it in their cities, for any culture. Talking to people from elsewhere always makes me appreciate this city.

We definitely needed to police escort on Saturday night. People were crushing in to see the streetcar and take photos in front of it as it inched along. People also really like to touch the windows for some reason.

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The streetcar rolls slowly up crowded Gerrard Street.

Here’s a video of us slowly pushing the streetcar through the evening crowd:

The next day, we started all over again. Three more runs up and down Gerrard Street on a day that was over 30 degrees C.

Sunday's band, Guu, were an all-percussion band. They played on anything: streetcar tracks, tent poles, lamp posts,

Sunday’s band, Guu, were an all-percussion band. They played on anything: streetcar tracks, tent poles, lamp posts.

Time lapse video of the streetcar at night:

We lit the streetcar up on Sunday night and the people flocked like moths. We dismantled the tower in the twilight with the help of a couple of locals. Bone-tired, we waited until a break in the photo-taking, then rolled the still-lit streetcar into its secret parking spot. Then we shut off the generator and went home to bed.

We're with the band. Turbans made by Christine Cosby.

We’re with the band. Turbans made by Christine.

Bazaar Bizarre Streetcar schedule

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Heading down to Toronto’s Festival of South Asia? Here’s when the Bazaar Bizarre Streetcar gets rolling (all times approximate). The Bazaar Bizarre Streetcar will be accompanied by musicians during all of its moves. During the evening performances, the art float will be lit inside and out. All moves will take place in between Main Stage performances.

Saturday, August 15:

3:00 pm: Impromptu 15 minute stationary musical performance around the art float located at Gerrard St E & Rhodes Ave led by Parade Marshal Jason Kenemy and volunteer musicians from the local community.

5 pm: Parade led by Parade Marshal leads musicians (Dhol Circle) accompanied GIBBIA board members, local politicians and volunteer-pushed Bazaar Bizarre Streetcar 3 blocks west along Gerrard St E from Rhodes Ave to Ashdale Ave where art float stays until 7.30pm (Estimated time for Parade 15 minutes)

7:30 pm: Parade with Bazaar Bizarre Streetcar moves 3 blocks west from Ashdale Ave to Glenside Ave where art float stays until 9pm (Estimated time for Parade 15 minutes)

9:00 pm: Parade with Bazaar Bizarre Streetcar moves 6 blocks east from Glenside Ave to Rhodes Ave where Bazaar Bizarre Streetcar will go to sleep until the next afternoon (Estimated time for Parade 25 minutes)

Sunday, August 16:

3:00 pm: Parade led by Parade Marshal leads musicians and volunteer-pushed Bazaar Bizarre Streetcar 3 blocks west along Gerrard St E from Rhodes Ave to Ashdale Ave where art float stays until 6:00 pm (Estimated time for Parade 15 minutes)

6:00 pm: Parade with Bazaar Bizarre Streetcar moves 3 blocks west from Ashdale Ave to Glenside Ave where art float stays until festival wraps (Estimated time for Parade 15 minutes)

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Building a Bizarre Streetcar

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Bombardier has delayed the delivery of Toronto’s new streetcars again, so we thought “How hard can it be to build our own?”

The artist-built “Bazaar Bizarre Streetcar” running down Gerrard St E. at the Festival of South Asia next weekend, August 15 and 16.

Inspired by Toronto’s obsession with all things transit, Andrew Horne and I designed a cartoon, three-quarter scale version of the familiar CLRV streetcar. We’ve spent the last week building the streetcar at Cuppa Coffee animation studios with the carpentry expertise of set designers Kevin and Tony.

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The Bazaar Bizarre Streetcar improves on the TTC’s vehicles in some exciting ways:

  • 100% green energy: The Bazaar Bizarre Streetcar will be pushed down the street three times a day by four people.
  • Community building: The Bazaar Bizarre Streetcar has been designed the celebrate the Gerrard India Bazaar. The streetcar livery has been brightened up with a South Asia damask pattern. The cartoon passengers, who will be illuminated at night, include many traditional animals from the South Asia Region.
  • Engaging passengers: On top of the streetcar, rising to a height of four meters, are giant cartoon versions of Toronto’s animals – raccoons, skunks, opossums, squirrels, and plenty of pigeons. The passenger windows are also crammed with dozens of fantastic people and creatures. The streetcar car drivers are an enormous cat and and helpful lady monster.
  • Musical accompaniment: When the The Bazaar Bizarre Streetcar comes to live and roll along to a new location in the Bazaar, it will escorted by a fanciful South Asian style band, playing joyful music and adding to the excitement.
  • Accurate signage: The streetcar, which will travel only a half dozen blocks during the Festival of South Asia, has helpful signs reading “Very Short Turn”.

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