Mourn, not Celebrate

Photo: "Celebrate Toronto Street Festival" by blogTO Flickr pooler tysonwilliams.com.

Celebrate Toronto is dead. It was killed by a combination of political ignorance and lack of funds. Canada's largest city could be forced to declare bankruptcy in the next year, leaving many casualties behind. One of those casualties appears to be the Celebrate Toronto Street Festival.

Or maybe funding wasn't the problem. Supposedly Toronto Special Events says that there are so many events planned for this year that they didn't want Celebrate Toronto to be brushed aside or overlooked. Essentially the city is saying that we have too many good things in Toronto, and that we don't need that many. Too many good things somehow hurt the city. But aren't we supposed to be Live with Culture? Isn't Toronto supposed to be Unlimited? Forgive me if I'm wrong but the word "Unlimited" doesn't mean "we stop at a certain point." If Toronto was insistent on using that ridiculous marketing campaign they should at least understand the meaning of it.

LuminaTO was a great event and a welcome addition to the Toronto cultural calendar. It brought something new that the city hadn't really seen before, and I'd love to see the event continue. Why that means we shouldn't have a street festival anymore I don't know. No one has ever said "I'm not going to that street festival, the Pride Parade was a few weeks ago" or "Who needs a street festival, Nuit Blanche is coming up in a couple of months and I need to prepare myself!"

Toronto is a city that is built on two things: selling itself short, and erasing tradition and history. Cancelling the street festival somehow managed to do both of those things in one fell swoop. Killing the festival is Toronto's way of saying we're too small to have an interesting city. I doubt London or Paris or New York ever says that they're too busy to celebrate their city. While Celebrate Toronto only lasted eight years, it was starting to become a tradition in the city. So of course the city had to tear it down faster than a historic structure on Front Street.

Celebrate Toronto was a family-friendly festival, more so than any other our city had. The city has a number of diverse events, from Pride to Caribana to Nuite Blanche. The reason we can have all of these festivals is because they are all different. It's not like we're having ten street festivals and so we cancelled one.

Celebrate Toronto encouraged people to walk down Yonge Street and enjoy it, rather than shying away from the area. Actions like this one make Yonge Street the tattered mess of strip clubs and discount stores that it is, rather than Toronto's Times Square. I'm sure the stores in the area appreciate the city's actions here. It's not like they needed all that extra business anyway, they had the Pride Parade last week, and they should be grateful for that.

I remember walking into a deserted Yonge Street convenience store last Canada Day and having the person behind the counter say "I wish they would have a parade or something today, it's so quiet." The city of Toronto would tell that person "You had your festival a few weeks ago; you should have saved up the money you made then."

So next weekend, as your sitting at home watching cars race around Exhibition Place, think about how you could have been outside, eating ice cream on Yonge Street and listening to live music.

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