Starfest is a Canadian star party that takes place slightly north of Mount Forest, Ontario. The star party is hosted by the North York Astronomical Association at the River Place campground, situated along the banks of the River Beatty-Saugeen.
It is a Bortle 3 site, offering incredible views of the night sky with plenty of faint deep-sky objects visible. Amateur astronomers and astrophotographers have been attending Starfest to gather under dark skies for many years.
Starfest has been ranked by Sky and Telescope as one of the top star parties in North America and also has a reputation of being Canada’s largest annual amateur astronomy conference and star party.
I attended the Starfest Star Part in Mount Forest for the first time in 2022. Here is a video I created capturing the Andromeda Galaxy while attending the event.
There is a fee to register for Starfest. There are both individual rates and family rates to help cover the cost of putting on the event. Check the website for registration fees.
Camping fees for staying at River Place Campground are selected in the registration process for an additional fee, on top of your registration fee. The amount varies based on what type of camping experience and additional services you are looking for (i.e. motorhomes, trailers, tents, etc.)
Trailer sites are available by advance registration only, on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Starfest hosts knowledgeable speakers each year.
River Place Campground
The trailer and RV sites at River Place Campground are in the 300 (water, hydro) and 400 (water, hydro, sewer) sections.
The campground where the star party is held is a private campground with full-service sites (i.e. water, hydro and sewer).
It also has a wide range of amenities, including:
- Public washrooms and showers
- Recreation building
- Dump station
- Heated outdoor pool
River Place Campground Map (riverplacecampground.com)
Starfest offers more than just dark skies and the opportunity for astrophotography.
There are a variety of observing-oriented activities including:
- Observing sessions
- Guided sky tour
- Children’s Activities
Setting up my telescope at Starfest in 2022.
My image of the Andromeda Galaxy captured at Starfest.
How to Prepare for Starfest
- Register ahead of the event. Keep an eye out on the website a few months prior to the event to ensure you get a spot. In 2022, event registration opened mid-June.
- Pack your red headlamp: as per all-star party rules and regulations, red lights are required at night and no artificial white lights are allowed. This includes any lights from trailers, flashlights, car lights, computer monitors etc.
- Don’t forget your gear: it is often a good idea to fully set up your gear at home prior to heading out to a star party to ensure you don’t forget a cord, adapter etc. If you have a battery pack, bring it with you.
- Attend a talk or workshop: star parties pull together really great speakers from the industry to provide knowledgeable and engaging sessions. Take advantage of this and give the speaker and give them an audience their talk.
- Buy some merch: most star parties have t-shirts for sale to help you remember your time at the event. These are either available ahead of time for order or once you arrive at the party.
Here is a video posted on YouTube of what Starfest was like back in 2012.
- Walk don’t drive once inside the campground
- Drive carefully and slowly: there are lots of people and gear around the site
- No driving at night: no white lights from headlights
- Non-campers park in designated parking spaces: only campers are allowed to park inside the campground
- Red lights only at night: cover all white lights, no campfires or propane lanterns. Shield monitors and reduce screen intensity
- Recommended to leave lasers at home: this is a dark-sky location
- Be respectful: no offensive behaviour, loud music excessive consumption of alcohol
- No pets
- Protect your valuables
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