roncesvalles polish fest

Toronto street festival changes name again after people in neighbourhood revolt

It looks like the naming debacle over a certain street festival in Toronto's west-end has finally come to an end.

The Roncesvalles Festival will revert back to its original name, The Roncesvalles Polish Festival, after the neighbourhood rallied together against the removal of the word 'Polish.'

Late last month, it was announced by the community's BIA that the 15-year-old event would skip the 'Polish' part of the festival in an aim to recognize changes in the community.

That decision backfired terribly, however, sparking uproar among Polish residents, who felt their heritage was being removed. Backlash was voiced by the whole Roncy community, not just their Polish neighbours.

Roncesvalles has long been known as the heart of Toronto's Polish community and though a number of the Polish institutions in the area have shuttered, there are still a few restaurants, bakeries and the St Casimir Polish church.

Many were perplexed about the decision, as the festival's lineup still featured a majority of Polish cultural acts and food stands.

One main challenger of the name change was Mike Otrowski, who started a petition ‘Keep the Polish Festival Polish’ to revert back to the old moniker.

Two hours ago, Otrowski updated the petition page saying victory had been achieved.

"This morning the Roncesvalles BIA voted to reverse their decision to take 'Polish' out of the name of the Roncesvalles Polish Festival. Everyone one of your comments and petition signatures played an important part in making this decision happen, THANK YOU," reads the post.

The battle even had some government support as the Polish Consulate General in Toronto wrote a letter to the festival and local politicians voicing support for keeping the word 'Polish' in the naming.

Though Otrowski said the name reversal was a good decision, he indicated there is still work to be done to repair the damage the BIA had inflicted.

"It is up to us to make a statement that Polish culture and heritage is not an inconvenience but the source of celebration that draws people to the neighbourhood," reads his statement.

As a result, Otrowski asked the petition signers to show up to the festival in their best red and white (colours of the Polish flag) and to support the Polish vendors.

The festival's website has yet to change the name and still currently says the Roncesvalles Festival. 

The Roncesvalles BIA did not respond to blogTO's questions regarding the decision in time for publication.

Catch the newly renamed Roncesvalles Polish Festival on Sept. 17-18.

Lead photo by

Hamish Grant

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