July 2011 was the inaugural year for Imagine in the Park, the free children’s arts and literature festival. Gage Park Hamilton was chosen as the venue where it has been held annually since then because of its accessibility. It is held each year on the first Saturday in June.
Festival partners in 2011 included the Hamilton Children’s Museum, Frontier College who provided free books for all children attending as well as the Hamilton Literary Council who with the Children’s Museum were responsible for volunteers. Arts Hamilton was our charitable partner and provided invaluable assistance in many ways.
Partners changed as the festival grew over the five years with the Hamilton Academy of Performing Arts remaining our charitable partner since 2012. It is an excellent partnership as the festival complements the vision and goals of the arts curriculum of the school. The Children’s Museum remained an active partner until 2015 and will continue to participate in the event by providing a Kid’s Zone throughout the day.
Alliances were forged with many loyal sponsors and donors the initial year, a number of whom have remained with us since then. As well, Frontier College has continued to provide free books for the hundreds of children who have attended the event over the past five years. The Hamilton District School Board has supported the festival (and continues to do so) by encouraging the distribution of announcement postcards to students who bring the cards to the festival in exchange for free books.
A large number of individuals volunteer at the event each year including high school students who assist the artists and receive credit towards the community hours they must accrue in order to graduate.
Professional artists for the free event must apply through a call and are selected by the festival committee. All workshops are hands-on and interactive. The first year approximately 1000 workshops were delivered, and by 2015 the number had increased to approximately 3600.
Each year has seen the event grow in popularity and size with positive feedback from families and children alike.