About half a million people came out to Bloor West Village from Sept. 16–18 for the 15th annual Toronto Ukrainian Festival — the largest such festival in North America.
Several politicians joined the bands and revellers in the big parade including Ward 13 councillor Sarah Doucette and Parkdale-High Park MP Peggy Nash.
“We had a lot of fun,” said Nash. “It’s a very, very successful festival and extremely well organized and very good for the community because we do have deep Ukrainian roots in our community.”
Singers, dancers and musicians traveled from around the world to perform at the event. Headlining the event was Mandry, a popular band from Ukraine that mixes Ukrainian folk music with modern rhythms. Another, more traditional sounding group, Lemko Tower, traveled all the way from Poland to attend the festival.
“The group that came from Poland is from a region that was annexed in the Second World War but it was originally part of Ukraine called Lemkivshchyna,” said Olya Grod, vice-president of the festival.
The festival shared the weekend with the Roncesvalles Polish Festival to the northeast. Rather than compete with each other the two festivals peacefully coexist and even advertised jointly.
Most years, members of the Toronto Ukrainian Festival invite representatives of another cultural group to the festival as a guest. Because Roncesvalles was closed for construction last September members of the Polish Festival were invited to and performed at last year’s Ukrainian Festival.
No other cultural group was formally invited to this year’s festival because of the significance this year holds to the Ukrainian community in Toronto.
In addition to being the 15th annual Toronto Ukrainian Festival in Bloor West Village, 2011 also marks the 50th anniversary of the Canadian Lemko Association and the 120th anniversary of Ukrainian settlement in Canada.
“We didn’t ask another group to join us this year but we certainly will next year,” Grod said.
While Grod added people from any background are welcome at the festival, according to Nash everyone is part of the same culture during the festival.
“It’s just a wonderful celebration of all things Ukrainian and for that weekend everybody is Ukrainian,” she said.
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