What even is KWFamous?
What even is KWFamous?
🦢 You're hanging out with friends, and someone pulls out their water bottle, plastered with stickers. One is a swan, with the words KWFamous underneath. Hmm.
🥶 You're scrolling on Instagram and see a pic of a strange, big-foot-ish character running away from people in snow gear. The posting account is KWFamous. Hmmm.
🛼 You're making your weekend plans, and your partner suggests you go to a parking garage roller disco party put on by… you guessed it: KWFamous.
Maybe you've heard of us, maybe you haven't. Whether you’re a die-hard fan who loves everything we do, a scroller of instagram, or someone who’s collaborated with us, chances are – if someone asked – you would have no idea how to articulate who and what KWFamous is.
KWFamous is a bit of an enigma.🤷♀️
"But…what do you actually do?" "Is this like…your job?" "So you just…throw parties?" “Are you #KWAwesome?”
Don’t worry, we’ve heard it all.
Perhaps the lack of clarity adds to our mystique, or maybe it stems from the fact that even we have a hard time wrapping our minds around all the crazy things we do. While we can't promise that we have the perfect answer, we’ve put together a little something to help you (and us) truly describe it all.
How it all started
Being "KWFamous" was an inside joke between the organization's two founders. They would kid about the people, places and things famous to locals, but also about how KW might one day become well-known to Canadians and beyond. The pair were tuned into the everyday magic of Kitchener-Waterloo and wanted to connect people who felt the same way while spreading that feeling to others.
This idea evolved into an Instagram account dedicated to highlighting the well–loved and locally famous. It mainly was street photography and "people of New York" style images full of whimsy and character. They started sharing local artists and the people who make the foundation of the community, then started to create fan art of the local gems – Otis the Swan, Mount Trashmore, Ezra Avenue. There was even the @otistheswan instagram account to highlight the icon, himself.
After gaining local attention, KWFamous' founders decided to design and sell merch that celebrates KW's most popular icons. As you might imagine, this blew up.
Quickly, the two originators were surrounded by a community that loves our region as much as they do. With newfound local support, KWFamous started to host events: an inaugural ION bar crawl called Choo Choo Chug (with matching stickers and shirts), and a series of boozy brunches that brought some much-needed traffic to local businesses suffering during the pandemic. A Sweat Crawl that made 10 gyms and wellness studios come together to collaborate for a full day of working out. They demonstrated how local organizations can partner in win-win collaborations that are economically essential yet fun and full of shenanigans.
Since then, the team has grown and changed, and our events have gotten bigger and, dare we say…better? We emerged from creativity and celebration and have become deeply entangled with placemaking, community building, local economy, and the arts.
See what those entanglements have become ever since here.
What we are now
After 5 years of KWFamous (2023), our organization is now a registered non-profit. We have a team of three employees, a board of five directors, and about 20 incredible volunteers and loosely define ourselves as:
- Waterloo Region's go-to place for all things cool
- Celebrants of KW's people and places
- Creatives who adapt to meet needs and opportunities as they emerge
- Connectors between unexpected partners seeking win-win solutions
So far, this has mostly looked like events, collaborations, merch, and micro-influencing. But don't get it twisted - we don't "just put on events" or are "just an Instagram account." Our "why" defines us, and the "how" constantly changes.
Want to join our volunteer committee? Click here.
So what is our why?
Some people look at what we do, and they don't get it. They think all we're doing is throwing parties, trying to gobble up followers, or worse - doing all of this to be self-serving and profitable (which just ain’t it).
Here is what they don't see:
Joy, laughter, surprise, fun - each of these elements in our work make life worth living. They make someone choose where to live and how to spend their time, and contributes to their mental health. When we build community based on connectedness and joy, we’re more empathetic and show up for each other.
Local pride makes a difference in what it's like to live in KW. So many who move here ask how a region of this size has maintained a feeling of warmth, welcome and community. We all say, it’s like a small town in a big city. We try to be a part of what makes that true.
Unexpected, novel, and delightful experiences are not only fun to attend but create unique opportunities for up-and-coming artists, vendors, and business owners to grow and market their businesses. We literally put money back into the community, and grow our local economy for creators to thrive here in the region.
This is what our "why" is all about. We aim to use thoughtful shenanigans to create unique and joyful experiences that reveal or contribute to why KW is such a wonderful place to live or visit. At the human level, this is about joy and community. At a higher level, it is about economic development, drivers of tourism, community building, placemaking, and much more.
- Revisit public space and challenge the ways that it is used or unused
- Question existing rules about our systems
- Animate KW for people of ages and walks of life
- Put KW on the map as a destination and contribute to our tourism economy
- Share stories of the individuals who make our region
- Stimulate interactions between strangers
- Popularize local destinations and hidden gems
- Create opportunities for locals, like artists and performers
- Creating safe spaces to play for all
So, who is KWFamous for?
First and foremost – we are here to serve the KW region and its residents.
We love to collaborate with diverse community partners like Digimillennials at AfroVibes to the St. Jacobs Market to the Gay Crafting League – all in order to create safe and inclusive spaces to play.
We also do our best to make some of our events low- or no-cost because everyone deserves opportunities for fun.
At the end of the day, KWFamous is for everyone. We offer a model - a way of doing things - that engages creatives, city planners, scholars, artists, businesses, changemakers, developers, community spaces, policymakers, government officials, advocates, and beyond!
Did that answer your question?
Clear as mud? Now you can walk away just as confused about KWFamous as you were to start 😉
But at the end of the day, the best way to understand who we are is to engage with us. After following us on socials for a while or after attending events with the weird and wonderful folks who come out - we promise it'll all start to make sense.
We hope to meet you soon!
Want to connect with us? Click here.