Imagine hitting a single while a live band plays a cover of the latest hit single in the background. That’s the atmosphere the participants of Dokis Summerfest get to enjoy every year. Since 2011, this annual community event has been rocking a July weekend with family-friendly activities that have been attracting more and more people.
The grounds of the Robert Restoule Memorial Athletic Park host the festival. Attendees can watch the teams play 3-pitch softball or horseshoes while listening to live music. The stage as well as a bar area are set up on the covered outdoor ice rink, so even the players can enjoy the tunes.
Inspired by the Dokis Picnic of days gone by, the Dokis Summerfest organizing committee wanted to bring together community members as well as family and friends from neighbouring areas in an informal and fun environment. Just how the idea of blending music and sports came to be isn’t quite known, but Chief Gerry Duquette Jr. thinks it’s because there are a lot of musicians and athletes in the community. Those who don’t play instruments or sports like to support those who do, he says, and everyone enjoys being together.
The little ones love the festival, too. With all kinds of free activities like a bouncy castle, a magic show, and a kids’ softball game, it truly is a weekend for everyone.
That’s why so many volunteers help out. Everyone in the Dokis First Nation community benefits from the event somehow. Proceeds from the festival go towards the annual school trip, the Little NHL, and the annual powwow.
Chief Duquette, who has been with the Dokis Summerfest organizing committee since its inception, is proud to mention that the festival has been mostly self-sufficient. In 2016, Economic Development Officer Randy Restoule says that “Dokis was successful in receiving a grant from the Ontario Arts Council.”
While an emphasis is placed on presenting local performers, thanks to the Ontario Arts Council grant, says Restoule, Dokis Summerfest was “able to host Carl Dixon, former member of Coney Hatch, April Wine, and The Guess Who.”
With a total of 12 softball teams in 2016, the growth of Summerfest has surprised even its organizers. Annelise Dokis, a member of the organizing committee since 2012, notes that there were “five new teams this year alone,” and that five teams have been playing since the festival first began five years ago.
Joanne Boucher, originally from Noëlville, is a member of one of those teams. She says she’s never missed Summerfest, and never will. “It’s so much fun!”
Visitors attending Dokis Summerfest come from French River, Shawanaga First Nation, Nipissing First Nation, West Nipissing, and Sudbury. Says Restoule, “Many friends and family now book summer vacations around Summerfest.”
Over the years, many improvements have been made to the athletic park, including building bleachers and covered dugouts at the ball field, as well as brand-new change room facilities with washrooms. As Summerfest continues to grow, new priorities have been identified: repairing the roof of the canteen, adding a second ball field, and developing a designated camping area and trailer park.
More Info on Dokis Summerfest
- Festival Facebook group
- Dokis First Nation website
- See also: French River Area Outdoor Summer Events: Soaking Up Culture and Sun
Author’s Note: I’ve twice now attended Dokis Summerfest, and both times were a blast! On each occasion, I participated in the softball tournament, worked a volunteer shift, and listened to some great music. I’m committed to entering a softball team every year moving forward, since it’s a wonderful way to spend time with friends and community members (smiley face).