Toronto is without a doubt a "Mega Metropolis". Just how multicultural this great city is can be easily experienced while traveling through the city.
Going east, along the Danforth for example, the rich cultural Greek heritage cannot be overlooked. "A taste of the Danforth" is an annual event. This is also where the Olympics were really celebrated and shared with the rest of the city. A visit in the Italian enclave around Dufferin St. and St. Clair Ave. or the area referred to as "Little Italy" on College Street west of Bathurst Street is another European experience. There are many other areas where ethnic communities prevail. The two Chinatowns are another example.
In the west end of Toronto, Bloor West Village hosted the 8th Annual Ukrainian Festival. It was scheduled to run from Friday, August 27 to Sunday evening. Unfortunately the organizing committee had to cancel the balance of the festival on Sunday, because of severe thunderstorm activities.
Bloor Street was closed to traffic between Jane and Runnymede. Instead of traffic there were wall-to-wall visitors of all types, ages, genders and nationalities frequenting the area. A total of 250,000 visitors were expected this year.
Most prominent of course were the Ukrainians, many, but not all, wearing traditional dress. It was truly a ‘Folk-Festival’. The centre of the street featured two fenced-in areas - with security guards at each end, where the visitors could sit down and enjoy food and drink in garden restaurant style ambiance.
On Saturday the weather was cooperating, with the sun peeking through an otherwise overcast sky to illuminate the many kiosks, beer and food facilities and other entertainment opportunities.
Some of the favorite native Ukrainian foods offered were Kobasky (Sausage), Kabusta (Sauerkraut) and Perogies with sour cream. At the beverage end it was Ukrainian beer, Krimsekt, and Vodkas. Two beers were offered: Lvivske, a Lager and the Slavutich - a Premium beer – both tasted like some of the best German beers. That was the consensus by the visitors, something not many of them had expected.
Apparently Ukrainian beers are also best sellers at the beer stores.
Krimsekt sparkling wines are made from grapes grown in this Southern area of the Ukraine and the ideal soil and climate of the peninsula that juts into the Black Sea, the part of the Ukraine that is also known as the Russian Riviera.
Like the chalk caves of the Champagne Region in France, Krimsekt’s underground, gypsum-lined wineries and cellars create a perfect environment for traditional double fermentation and aging. It takes years of care and skill to create world-class, superb sparkling wines. These exotic beauties are sure to impress the palates of connoisseurs and delight aficionados of wine and culture. They are definitely on par with German varieties.
Krimsekt is well known in the old world but here in North America we have to educate the younger wine connoisseurs. That shouldn’t be a problem once they have tasted and enjoyed the superb quality of this sparkling beauty.
Many of them were exhibited in the various tents, kiosks and booths that lined the area. Of course there were the traditional painted eggs and dolls-in-dolls on display but also a great number of other items, such as ceramics, pottery, books, clothing, toys and much more – all available at the importing UkieStore.
It was also obvious that most of the younger generations still spoke Ukrainian – a fact not always noticeable in the German communities! That these youngsters are proud of their heritage was easy to see!
It seems that the memory of decades of oppression under the old soviet regime has created an admirable sense of togetherness in these displaced Ukrainians, which in fact has remained to this day. They had to stick together then, and they are still sticking together and helping each other now! But they also reward us with their friendship and business.
Ukrainians are one of the largest ethnic groups in this cultural mosaic that is Canada.
More than one in ten Western Canadians claim Ukrainian heritage and almost 300,000 reside in Ontario alone. In the west, Edmonton has more residents of Ukrainian descent than any other city in the world, followed closely by Winnipeg and Toronto.
The large main-stage at Jane Street featured artistic talents of every kind. Dance ensembles and Bandura players, the Okean Elzy Rock Band and other instrumentalists. Vocalists - such as the very popular Ukrainian Singer Ruslana - and other musicians entertained the crowd all day.
A special guest-group and well received by the large audience was the Vranovcan Folklore Ensemble from Slovakia. The Dunai Band also entertained in one of the refreshment areas with popular tunes and music to dance by.
At the other end of the festival area was a children’s "Midway" that even included a Ferris wheel – and hundreds of eager kids.
Interesting side effects were noted at the stores along the route. Most of them displayed their wares on the sidewalks, outside of their stores, and had no objection to the additional business that came their way, via the many visitors strolling by.
Police officers on duty that afternoon were impressed and reported no disturbances of any kind. "This is not an unruly crowd," one said.
Toronto is such a great city, one of the most envied in North America. Multiculturism still works here. But we also have to work at it to keep it that way!
This festival really was an event worth emulating by other ethnic groups. r.k.a.
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