MONTREAL – The Danforth Festival is, by and large, the biggest open-air festival in Canada, with over one and a half million visitors each year.
“Perhaps more, if one thinks that more than 500,000 people pass through Danforth on a daily basis,” said Constantine Voidonicolas, President of Greektown on Danforth Business Improvement Area, to The National Herald. The organization organizes and co-ordinates the Taste of Danforth Festival each year on Toronto’s “Greek” Avenue.
The festival (August 11-13 this year) ends on Sunday evening, with a series of events, in three different areas and with many activities, some of which are associated with the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the founding of Canada and the emergence the multicultural nature of the country.
“It will be our pleasure to see people from around the world, from all over Canada and the northern United States this year choosing Danforth as their destination for this important three-day event,” said Voidonicolas.
“Moreover, the context of events, the character of an open street celebration, where fun, entertainment, art, sport and social solidarity blend harmoniously with each other, guarantee success for the festival,” he added.
Voidonicolas refers to the festival statistics of 2016 which depict not only the mass of people who visited, but also the economic and tourist impact on the city of Toronto and the province of Ontario more broadly.
Last year’s Taste of Danforth brought in an estimated at $94.1 million Canadian, based on estimates by the Ontario Provincial Government. 39% of visitors traveled to Toronto to attend the events, 40 kilometers or more. 95% of them said the festival was good, very good or excellent and said they would definitely return to the city for the 2017 festival.
This year the festival is organized for the 24th time in a city where the Greek community exceeds 200,000 people and is the largest in Canada and the third largest in the Greek diaspora.
Of course, the role of Greek music and dances, as well as the Greek food, are highlights of the festival, while there is a separate section titled “It’s All Greek to Me” where, among other things, visitors can participate in dish-breaking, an age-old tradition that was abolished in Greece in 1969.
“A large group of people has worked hard to prepare everything and to be on time,” said Voidonicolas. Taste of Danforth began in 1994 as a purely Greek festival with an emphasis on cuisine and culture. At that time, the number of visitors was just over 5,000.
But the next year, more than 100,000 people flocked to Danforth for the Greek festival, leading to the road being closed to traffic for the first time and the implementation of security measures.
Over the years, the number of visitors has been increasing steadily, so that the festival has taken on a broader character embracing the entire city of Toronto. Last year, the organizers estimated that during the three days of the festival, 1,650,000 visitors attended.
The social dimension of the event is also important, through community service and charity events.
More than $2 million Canadian has been donated to the Toronto’s Michael Garron Hospital, to support children’s hospitals (such as the joint program of Sick Kids Hospital with the Children’s Hospital Hagia Sophia in Athens), and to battle prostate cancer and breast cancer (a special event has been organized for Sunday).
Families in need, schools in the Greek community, and other organizations such as the SOS Villages in Greece, the Smile of the Child, and the program of Greek studies at the University of Toronto, among others, have all benefitted from donations raised at the festival.
“The philosophy of the festival is that what it brings in should go back to the community through social actions and charitable activities,” said Voidonicolas.