roncesvalles festival

Toronto street festival just changed its name and people aren't happy about it

Now that summer has finally come around, tons of various street festivals will take place within the next few months that celebrate Toronto's cultural diversity through food, art and intriguing cultural exhibits. 

Some of them include the Fun Philippines Festival, Toronto Ukrainian Festival and the formerly known Roncesvalles Polish Festival, which has recently changed its name to "Roncesvalles Festival" instead. 

By removing the word "Polish" in their title, the people behind the festival hope to better recognize ongoing changes in the Roncesvalles community and, presumably, create a more open and inviting festival space for everyone to explore. 

But for a festival that specifically aims to showcase Polish culture and has been doing so for over 15 years, many people are finding the new name change off-putting, confused as to why the very word that defines this festival is being removed. 

The festival announced on their Facebook page that they are "recognizing changes in [the] community with the newly rebranded 'Roncesvalles Festival'".

They wrote that they will include fan favourites like Polka and pierogi in conjunction with "a fresh focus to celebrate a broader range of local artists, musicians and food."

Though Roncesvalles, and indeed all of Toronto, is composed of many different people from all over the world, it seems counter-intuitive for the festival to address the city's diversity in this way - this is one of many festivals that aims to highlight food and art from a specific culture.

Are we not simply celebrating diversity already, just by doing that? 

People are upset at the name change, unable to understand why it was necessary. 

"Either you make it back to POLISH festival or me and my friends will boycott it. And the performers are scheduled to be Polish only! Where did you get this idea to drop the word Polish from the 15-year tradition???" wrote Facebook user Radek Chrabalowski. 

"Polish festival was always sufficiently funded, I guess might not be this year since it is not Polish anymore. It says celebrate Polish art culture food and music must be Polish just name taken away doesn't seems right", another person replied. 

The very charm of many street festivals in Toronto is their celebration of a specific culture - a space where people can come to learn and appreciate new things about a community they might not have been familiar with before.

By shifting the focus instead to a "culturally diverse" grey zone with no specific focus, this charm may be lost altogether. 

What's next, the Taste of Asia transforming into "Taste of Steeles" or the Fun Philippines Festival becoming the "North York Festival"?

Lead photo by

Jeremy Gilbert

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