Like many Torontonians, I went to the Taste of the Danforth festival over the weekend. This year was a special celebration as it marks the festival’s 25th anniversary festival and it’s also taking place just three weeks after a deadly shooting on Danforth Avenue where two people were killed and 13 injured. The Taste of the Danforth carried a message to stay stronger together to heal and show resilience as the Danforth and as a city. The spontaneous memorial, which was set up at the Alexander the Great Parkette after the tragedy, was moved to accommodate the Celebrity Stage. There visitors could pay their respects to the people who lost their life that night and the 13 that were injured.
The festival has typically attracted 1.5 million visitors each year. However, this year, it was predicted to host record numbers. On Friday night Prime Minister Trudeau and Mayor Tory opened the festival taking a moment of silence to remember that night and the victims including the two young women, Reese Fallon and Julianna Kosiz. T-shirts and buttons were sold saying #DanforthStrong and #TorontoStrongTogether. The proceeds will go to the Toronto Foundation set up to support the families of the victims. A benefit concert took place at the Danforth Music Hall where Billy Talent performed among other bands.
Many security prevention measures were in place this year. Security guards and police officers were on duty, garbage trucks were placed at major intersections, and street litter bins were sealed. It’s a sad reality we are all forced to face as a community to have to anticipate the next evil plan.
The festival featured three stages with live entertainment with Greek music and dancers as well as other cultural dances from around the world with teachers giving 15-minute dance lessons.
The Taste of the Danforth is a festival celebrating food, Canada’s multiculturalism and the Danforth’s Greek heritage—200,000 residents of the GTA are of Greek ancestry, the third largest Hellenic community outside of Greece. Here everyone has the opportunity to experience being ‘Greek for the Day’, eating chicken souvlaki, gyro sandwiches, and spanakopita. Let’s not forget the smashing a plate in typical Greek tradition! Apparently, there are many legends that go around about this custom, one being why wash your dishes when you can break them? My favourite legend has it that the voluntary breaking of a plate is a form of controlled loss, and helps the person who breaks the plate in dealing with the death of a loved one. This is quite fitting and cathartic given this year’s circumstances. So, as a Greek for a day, I ate chicken souvlaki, smashed a plate, and then shouted ‘Opa’!