Every year, Toronto waves the summer goodbye with one of the largest multicultural festivals in Canada—Taste of the Danforth. The festival attracts over 1.6 million visitors each year, making it one of the most anticipated summer events. Taste of the Danforth features a celebrity stage, pageants, live performances, cultural programs, sports, art, food, food, and more food!
This year, the festival will be celebrating its 25th anniversary. The festival first began in 1994, when restaurateurs from Greektown wanted to find a way to have guests try their delicious Greek food. The problem was that they needed advertising money in order to reach a wider market. The solution? The restaurateurs pooled their money together and set up tasting menus where guests would have to pay an inexpensive amount to sample different food from different restaurants. And thus Taste of the Danforth was born, and even today, guests can sample a mini-meal for an affordable $6.
With the ever-changing face of Canada, Taste of the Danforth has certainly transformed over the years. Since the Canadian Multiculturalism Act passed in 1988, Canada has prided itself on its multicultural mandate—Toronto especially has been a long-time hub for immigrants to settle in and start their new lives. According to the 2016 census, 44 per cent of Toronto residents have a mother tongue other than English.
The festival began as a celebration of Greek culture and heritage, but with the city’s evolving cultural scene, Taste of the Danforth has embraced this change and welcomes a diverse range of cultures. Over 50 per cent of the festival attendees are ethnic. The festival’s celebrity stage features the Mr and Miss Asia Pageant and Bollywood dancers, as well as a “Learn a Little” stage, where instructors can teach you a few words in their mother tongue—just to name a few.
The festival is run and owned by the Greektown on the Danforth Business Improvement Association. This volunteer board consists of residents from the community along with business owners. The chairman of the board is Constantine Voidonicolas, who dedicates hundreds of hours every year to make the festival possible. “The festival wouldn’t happen without Constantine Voidonicolas,” says Howard Lichtman, who is responsible for the marketing, programming, and sponsorship of the festival.
Lichtman describes Taste of the Danforth as being just like the rest of Canada. “Canada is a multicultural mosaic with many cultures. The festival is a celebration of Greek heritage, but it welcomes other ethnicities.”
This is part of what makes Taste of the Danforth so unique: the fact that the community that began the festival continues to welcome and embrace other cultures. The love and warmth emitted from Greektown continues to draw visitors and make Taste of the Danforth an annual, unforgettable success for the whole Danforth community.