return to normal toronto

Massive crowds at events show Toronto has moved on from two years of lockdowns

Toronto has come a long way from the empty streets seen in the first lockdowns of 2020, and after two-and-a-half of ups and downs, it really feels like things are back to normal with crowded events and packed venues.

The final weekend of August felt like the busiest the city has seen in recent memory, following two summers that lacked traditional seasonal fun like baseball games, live events, and of course, the Canadian National Exhibition.

Whether you've been out on the town or even just at home scrolling social media feeds, there's a clear sense that things are on the trajectory back to normal-ish, if not completely normal.

The CNE's long-awaited return has drawn masses out to Exhibition Place for the first time since 2019, and its absence has apparently made hearts grow fonder, with visitors braving long lines and shoulder-to-shoulder foot traffic to re-experience the food and fun of the summer tradition.

Flying in the face of arguments that cities are still dead and the damage of lockdowns is irreparable, social media posts highlight a resurgence of public transit use and event attendance.

If the CNE wasn't enough proof, FAN EXPO Canada 2022 was also completely packed as fans descended on the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to get in on the fun.

"Been here for five years and this is the busiest it's ever been," reads one Fan Expo attendee's comment on Instagram, with another dropping the obligatory "Toronto loves lineups." 

Over 125,000 attended the four-day festival, which has raised concerns from commenters calling this "COVID expo 2022" and a "super spreader event." One responded to the video above with "I'd rather sleep on glass."

If two packed events in the same area of the city weren't enough of a before-times atmosphere, there was also the Blue Jays (frankly disastrous) weekend homestand versus the Anaheim Angels and the 30th anniversary of the 1992 World Series-clinching game that saw old heroes return to a packed Rogers Centre homecoming.

Aside from stars of old, the homestand included an outing on the mound by Anaheim's pitching ace and also slugger, Shohei Ohtani.

While the Jays blew the series, the dome was next-level (sorry) busy. Over 45,000 showed up on Saturday alone to watch Ohtani's Angels cruise to a win on their way to a sweep.

Even in the Financial District, where the buzz of office drones is still not quite as loud as 2019, things are starting to feel more vibrant. The PATH system may be experiencing tough times, but pop-ups like the Farmers' MRKT at Royal Bank Plaza and the return of Union Summer on Front Street promote pedestrian traffic.

It's the same story over in the Kensington Market neighbourhood, where crowds have lined the streets of the busy shopping and dining district.

Between the complete lack of public health restrictions in effect and experts warning of a fall wave, it's possible people are just enjoying things while they can. Or perhaps the public is simply coming to terms with living amid the virus as the scenario shifts from pandemic to endemic.

Lead photo by

Kris Pangilinan

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