Contortionist Jonathan Burns of Pennsylvania balances a ball on his forehead while bent into an unbelievable position at the International Busker’s Festival in July 2012.

Contortionist Jonathan Burns of Pennsylvania balances a ball on his forehead while bent into an unbelievable position at the International Busker’s Festival in July 2012.

Flame-throwers, jugglers and acrobats – oh, my

Buskers ready to entertain at annual downtown festival

Final preparations are underway for Victoria’s most attended festival of the year when dozens of street performers wow tens of thousands of onlookers in downtown Victoria.

The 10-day Victoria International Buskers Festival takes over Government Street, Bastion Square, Ship Point and – new this year – the lower Wharf Street parking lot and the Royal B.C. Museum grounds to showcase jugglers, acrobats, musicians and francophone culture starting July 18.

“People are usually surprised when I tell them there’s around 400 hours of programming that goes into this, when you consider all the stages and busker stops,” said John Vickers, executive director of the festival.

Buskers include magicians, acrobats, jugglers, flame throwers, musicians and actors, as well as headlining all-stars like Australia-based fire troupe Flame Oz, five-time Guinness world record holder Victor Rubilar (Argentina) and hula hoop queen Becky Hoops (Montreal).

“We feel we had around 200,000 attendees last year,” Vickers said. “Deuce Days was here, and that helped, but it just seemed full-on non-stop for 10 days. I think this year if we can hold our own as good as last year, we’ll be ecstatic.”

Vickers said the festival is a collaboration between tourism partners, as the Hotel Association of Greater Victoria provides more than 200 room nights at no charge to house buskers each year.

“We do a lot of surveys with audiences and last year, over 60 per cent of U.S. residents said they’d come back this year. That’s a great sign,” he said.

Capping off the festival is an all-stars performance on the lawns of the Fairmont Empress Hotel, July 27 at 5 p.m.

Vickers teased it as an hour and a half extravaganza of favourite performers from years past and present.

For a full schedule, visit victoriabuskers.com or pick up a copy at the festival office at 1113 Langley St.