Taste of the Danforth mixes celebration and caution

The street was crowded with joyful participants for the Taste of the Danforth this past weekend — as usual for the annual celebration in Greektown.

Taste of the Danforth vendor
PROUD: Staff at the Athens Restaurant near Pape and Danforth show off meats grilled on the street.

But along with enjoying the food, music, dancing and games at Toronto’s biggest street party, no one missed the feeling that this year was different.

Few reminders of the tragedy that befell Danforth Avenue three weeks earlier remained to spoil the party mood, apart from an area in front of St. Barnabas of the Danforth church at Hampton Avenue set aside for tributes. Yet the shootings that left three people dead and 13 injured on July 22 seemed to be a part of everyone’s thoughts.

“Unfortunately the incident that happened I think caused a little bit of a scare, but it didn’t stop everyone from showing up,” said Scarborough resident Tabish Bhatti who had visited Taste of the Danforth in previous years.

“There’s a lot more people, there’s a lot more variety in terms of vendors that I’ve noticed,” he said on Aug. 11.

This was the 25th anniversary of Taste of the Danforth. The street was closed between Broadview and Jones avenues from Friday, 6 p.m., to Sunday, 10 p.m. Fifty-two vendors, stages and activity areas were set up, most featuring short lineups on Saturday afternoon. About 80 performers and groups put on musical and dancing shows at the four main stages and several smaller tents.

Dancing at Taste of the Danforth
DANCING IN THE STREET: What would Taste of the Danforth be without everyone joining in Greek dancing.

Mike, a resident of the Broadview area who didn’t want his full name used, said he thought the west end of the Danforth where he was eating corn on the cob with his two kids was less busy than in previous years they had come.

Police at Taste of the Danforth
SUNNY WAYS: There were no major problems, police said.

The shooting on the street made them a little worried about this event but didn’t keep them from coming back, he said. “We’re just being careful.”

The police presence was bolstered for this year’s Taste but officers were discreet, mainly hanging out casually on the side streets with other emergency personnel.

“Have you had any problems?” one police officer was asked.

“Nothing. It’s just a beautiful sunny day,” he said and gave a thumbs up.

Several visitors said they came to Taste of Danforth this year precisely to show support for the community that had gone through the tragedy.

“This is the first time I’ve come. I came because of the tragedy,” said artist Steep Daniels, who divides his time between New York and Toronto’s Kensington area.

He was showing a painting of the city that he said was 25 years in the making, showing Toronto growing from a child to an adult. In light of the fatalities, “I wanted to shine a light on how beautiful Toronto is,” Daniels said.

Memorial at Taste of the Danforth
REMEMBERING: A small area was devoted to memorials to the victims of the July 22 shootings.