Arts, Culture, and Recreation

Surrounded by the bounty of nature, Sault Ste. Marie is a four-season playground with a vibrant arts and culture scene. Many cultures contribute to the City’s unique character and there are plenty of opportunities for people to participate in a diversity of organizations, groups, teams and events. You can find more information on the clubs in the Sault through the City’s Leisure Guide. Continue for a brief overview of some of the many opportunities to experience arts, culture, and recreation in the Sault.

Indigenous culture

Indigenous culture contributes to the area’s vibrancy. Culture is maintained and shared through powwows, ceremonies, grandfather teachings, drum circles, sweat lodges, language, traditional food and ways of life with strong connection to and respect for the land. The local chapter of the Indigenous Writers Collective offers support to Indigenous authors. Works by Indigenous artists are showcased throughout city buildings and the Art Gallery of Algoma. In addition, the Sault is home to an active lacrosse league which is enjoyed by many. The game of lacrosse is possibly the oldest team sport in North America, first played by Indigenous peoples thousands of years ago. These games could be used for ceremonial ritual, to prepare young warriors for battle, and to solve disputes. Known by the Ojibway as baaga’adowe, the first mentions of lacrosse by Europeans occurred in the 1600s!

To read more about the Indigenous peoples of the Sault and area, including language, First Nations, events, and Sault Ste. Marie offices, click here.

Francophone culture

Francophone culture is an essential aspect of the City. There are several organizations committed to the promotion and sharing of Francophone culture in Sault Ste. Marie. Take a French class at the Centre d’éducation et de formation pour adultes, or enjoy some singing or dancing to great French music. The Centre francophone de Sault Ste. Marie offers many programs and events, including opportunities for children and seniors. The biggest Francophone celebration in the Sault is St. Jean-Baptiste Day, when you can experience a free festival for all ages. Read more about the Francophone community here.

Activities for all seasons

In the warmer weather, residents enjoy the outdoors by cycling, hiking, watching tug boat races, and browsing farmers’ markets. Art and craft shows, concerts, and theatre performances offer year-round entertainment. Sault Ste. Marie has the highest number of community theatre groups per capita of any city in Canada, and also has one of the longest-standing Arts Councils. In the downtown core you can enjoy public art, graffiti murals and the sculpture park at the Art Gallery of Algoma.

Sault Ste. Marie doesn’t slow down for the winter! The annual Bon Soo festival offers activities such as fireworks, ice slides, races, and of course the polar bear swim. Bon Soo is Canada’s largest winter festival after the Montreal Carnivale in Quebec. The name of the festival pays tribute to the Bonhomme (from the French “bonhomme de neige” or “snowman”), the mascot of the Montreal Carnivale. Other favourite winter activities include hockey, curling, skating, downhill skiing at Searchmont Resort, and cross country skiing and snowshoeing at Hiawatha Highlands and Stokely Creek. For the extreme sports enthusiast, there are also opportunities for ice climbing on the cliffs north of the Sault.

Local Cuisine

After being out and about, there’s no better way to end the day than with a satisfying meal. Food is an essential aspect of any culture, and with so many cultural groups in the Sault there is certainly a lot to choose from. The City’s vibrant Italian community is reflected in its many Italian restaurants, which offer high quality homemade staples such as pizzas, pastas, and soups. Enjoy the unique flavours of Indian, Japanese, Chinese and Thai cuisine, or sit down to a satisfying meal of local whitefish or barbeque. If you keep an eye out around town, you can find many places to purchase homemade eastern European perogies and cabbage rolls, or Scandinavian baked treats. Every culture in Sault Ste. Marie has its own delicious delicacies!

Events such as Buy Algoma Buy Local highlight the products of farms in the region. After a successful day of shopping at our farms and markets, you can enjoy fresh local food in your own kitchen. Click here to learn more about local agriculture and how it contributes to this area.

The Arts

The Sault is home to many artists whose reputations stretch across the nation and the around the globe. As well, a significant number of people dedicate themselves to enriching the area’s quality of life through the production of cultural goods, volunteerism and/or local sponsorships. More information and a calendar of events may be found on the Arts Council’s website as well as individual and organizational sites. The Arts Council of Sault Ste. Marie and District promotes and supports the arts within the Algoma region and across the border in upper Michigan, USA.

Within one of the highest number of theatre groups per capita in Canada, community theatre is exceptional. Some groups, such as the Sault Theatre Workshop, have been operating for more than 50 years and have a youth troupe to ensure its continued longevity. Family Life Theatre offers productions aimed to raise awareness and provide education on a wide variety of social issues and societal challenges. Residents and visitors often enjoy theatre through the Kiwanis Community Theatre Centre located within White Pines Secondary School in the City’s east end. Recently, Sault students performed the only production of Phantom of the Opera then occurring in Canada.

The Algoma Conservatory of Music, Algoma University’s Music programs and private music schools ensure high quality music abounds with a many individual musicians earning a living from the arts. There are independent recording studios and producers and many establishments host great local talent, many of whom are recognized far and wide. The Sault Symphony Orchestra comprised of members from both Sault Ontario and Michigan, often partners with the Sault Comedy Guild in delivering unique programming. The Sault Blues Society is very active, promoting area musicians and presenting touring acts.

Visual artists’ work is available during special exhibitions and at local galleries that are frequently listed on the Chamber of Commerce, and/or Arts Council’s websites. The recently established 360 Sault Media Arts Collective provides a unique educational opportunity for those interested in the growing media industry. The Art Gallery of Algoma boasts a robust collection well beyond its size including significant work by the Group of Seven and modernist painters.

Most recently film has become an increasingly prevalent component of the arts scene. Offering dramatic landscapes, historic streetscapes, and rugged wilderness, the Sault area is becoming well known as a prime location for film production, including commercial productions, documentaries, television, and short films. Productions from a wide variety of genres are showcased at Sault Ste. Marie’s annual Shadows of the Mind film festival.

Celebrating Cultural Diversity in Sault Ste. Marie

As part of the Celebrate 100 campaign, which recognizes the City’s 100-year anniversary since incorporation in 1812, the Sault Community Career Centre began its project to celebrate 100 years of cultural diversity in Sault Ste. Marie. On their website you can find facts about different waves of immigration and how immigrant populations contribute to the culture, vitality, and economy of the City. You can also find information on Indigenous culture and celebrations.

Holidays and Celebrations

The following are just a few of the cultural celebrations that take place in Sault Ste. Marie. Come out and join us!

  • Gathering at the Rapids Powwow, March: Now in its 10th year! Hosted at Algoma University.
  • Day of La Francophonie, March 20: A Francophone celebration observed around the world.
  • Passport to Unity, May: The Sault’s biggest multicultural festival. Taking place over several days, it offers workshops, unique events, entertainment, and an unforgettable atmosphere.
  • Finn Grand Fest, Summer: Experience Finnish art, crafts, food, music, and more.
  • National Aboriginal Day, June 21: A nation-wide day to celebrate the diversity, heritage, and achievements of Indigenous peoples in Canada.
  • St. Jean Baptiste Day, June 24: A popular French-Canadian traditional holiday dating back hundreds of years. In 1908, St. Jean Baptiste was named the patron saint of Quebec.
  • Guglielmo Marconi Society Italian Festival in Sault Ste. Marie, July: An annual celebration of Italian culture and heritage in Sault Ste. Marie.
  • Franco-Ontarian Day, September 25: The anniversary of the first raising of the Franco-Ontarian flag in 1975.