TORONTO – Solidarity with the Greek community in Toronto after the tragic shooting that left 2 dead, 10 year-old Greek-Canadian Julianna Kozis and 18 year-old Renee Fleming, and 13 wounded was strong and continued at the 25th Taste of the Danforth, the three-day festival which was held August 10-12. Approximately 1.6 million attended the festival, according to the Taste of Danforth website. The sunny August weather also brought out the crowds who lined up for the traditional Greek souvlakia and loukoumades.
Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau attended the festival with his son Xavier and along with Toronto Mayor John Tory, they broke plates according to the Greek custom on festive occasions. Prime Minister Trudeau also spoke with many festival-goers and posed for photos which were shared on social media.
On opening night of the festival, Friday, August 10, a moment of silence was held for the victims of the shooting and the first-responders were also acknowledged for their efforts. Prime Minister Trudeau said, “Tonight we also remember two extraordinary young women, Reese and Julianna who were out for ice cream… and got taken from us. It was a terrible tragedy that affected us all deeply, we all hugged our loved ones a little closer that night and for the following days,” the Chatham Daily News reported.
There was an increased police presence at this year’s festival, due to the recent increase in gun violence in Canada.
Russell and Lilly Marshall, former Toronto residents who moved to Port Dover, Ontario told the Chatham Daily News that they drove two hours to visit the Taste of the Danforth this year, “Hey, this is our city and it’s not going to push us away. We’re still going to come, but I think more came just to pay their respects,” Russell Marshall said, adding that “moving away from the city, like, knowing how the city has changed and all the violence that’s going on, it really hit home with us.”
The celebration of the Danforth's Greek heritage is also a celebration of Canada’s multiculturalism. Along with the Greek flavor, highlights this year included the Celebrity Stage with performances by Cuban Bands, Aboriginal singers, over 40 Bollywood dancers, and the Mr. and Miss Asia Toronto Pageant Competition. The “Let’s Dance” program presented by the City of Toronto taught participants dances from around the world, including Chinese, South Asian, Filipino, Egyptian, Greek, Japanese, Azerbaijani, and Afro-Caribbean dance.
Restaurateurs from along the Danforth offered Tasting Menus of multiethnic treats for no more than $6. Free, family-friendly entertainment on the Celebrity Stage was presented by OLG, Greek Stage, and Showcase Stage programmed this year by NXNE. Art on Sneakers was presented by MARTK’D, the Kids’ Fun Zone featured the EverBlock/Lego experience, and the Sports Zone featured activities and guest appearances from Toronto’s professional sports teams. The “It’s All Greek To Me” plate breaking experience and the Hollywood on the Danforth Zone presented by 20th Century Fox were also among the highlights of the festival.
This, of course, does not mean that the tragic event in Greektown was forgotten. On the contrary, there were billboards with #DanforthStrong messages and shirts and other items were on sale to raise funds for the victims and their families. A concert and other events during the festival also raised funds for the cause.