Matsuri 2nd Toronto Japanese Summer Festival, Yonge & Dundas Square, Toronto July 26. 2015

On Sunday I went to  Yonge & Dundas Square to pop in on the Matsuri Toronto Japanese Summer Festival. I got there in time to catch Toronto’s Isshin Daiko a drum band.DSC_0016 DSC_0023 The pounding rhythms of these eight players create a sound that is sure to reach deeply into your own heartbeat and soul. DSC_0026 DSC_0031The event seemed to have drawn about 20,000 or so people of all ages and origins. To say Toronto is a diverse community is an understatement and was clearly displayed at this event. DSC_0019 DSC_0069The event was well sponsored and featured some of Toronto’s finest Japanese food and music. The line-ups for every food vendor were long. As I continue to cover these events I am learning more and more that it is not the sponsors or organizers that make these events so incredible but rather the people, the happy smiling faces of people from all over the world and from all circumstances of life that bring the joy and festiveness these gatherings produce.DSC_0041 DSC_0042 DSC_0062DSC_0056 DSC_0053 Rather than just crowd shots and photos of vendors I give you the faces of this event. Those happy smiling faces that brighten my day and make this journey such a pleasure.DSC_0046 DSC_0070 DSC_0049 As always enjoy Toronto!

Correction, Pow Wow at Fort York

In my recent article about the wonderful Pow Wow that took place on Saturday I wrote that the initiative for this event came from the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nations. This event, while on the traditional territory of the mississaugas, was actually started by Barb Nahwegabow (Vendor), Joseph Sagaj (Artist), Jason Jenkins (Aboriginal Pavilion Assistant) and Kim Wheatley(Cultural Consultant and pictured below). Their 4500 Facebook connections managed to draw approximately 600 participants with zero funds. This grassroots event was only made possible with the help of various FN organizations and 6 of 30 vendors sharing their wares, hearts and money to provide honourariums. I am continually amazed at the accomplishments made possible when people band together! Thanks again for letting me enjoy this beautiful event and to Kim Wheatley, thanks for setting the record straight.
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Women’s and Men’s Road Race Cycling, High Park Toronto, july 25, 2015

When I got to the park the women’s race was already on it’s 3rd of 5 laps. Canadian, Jasmin Glaesser and Cuban Majias Marlies had jumped out to a large lead. Another Canadian rider Allison Beveridge seemed to lead the main group of riders and indeed that was the Gold, Silver and Bronze finishing order. These medals helped Canada post a record setting 202 medals in these games. The settings for the ride through the park were a stunning sight. What a lovely place to stage such a world class event!DSC_0598 DSC_0602 DSC_0617 DSC_0620 DSC_0628 DSC_0630The men’s race was a grueling 10 laps of this course to complete a 160 Kilometre race. These riders resolve and stamina were put to the test in the tight undulating hills of High Park. The pack seemed to stay together for almost half of the race before a few leaders broke free. Fortunately Canadian rider Guillaume Boivin managed to stay in touch with the lead group and captured a bronze medal. Fellow Canadian Hugo Huole finished 18th and the other two Canadians did not finish. A wonderful sight, a bit of history made and another beautiful Sunday in High Park.

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Pow Wow, Fort York grounds, Toronto July 25, 2015

A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to visit the Aboriginal Village which has been encamped on the grounds of old Fort York since the start of the PanAm games. DSC_0490 DSC_0494-001Sadly over the course of these games this installation has been sparsely visited and turnout in general has been rather disappointing. It is a very tucked away location and due to construction and lack of signage and p.r. many of the native vendors were not very optimistic that it would accomplish what they had hoped. After some coverage in the local press and a story featured on CBC finally some light had been shed. The Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation decided to hold a Pow Wow to draw attention. An appeal was put out on social media and the response was nothing short of incredible.DSC_0492 DSC_0518 DSC_0539Aboriginal peoples from all over Canada, USA and even Mexico showed up in full force and colours. In all my years I have never been to a Pow Wow so for me this became a first on many levels.DSC_0593 DSC_0500 DSC_0535DSC_0522DSC_0532 The premier, Kathleen Wynne and her partner along with several dignitaries attended to show their support. DSC_0553 DSC_0524 DSC_0531The music and dancing was intense and I could feel the pride and love this gathering created. DSC_0559 DSC_0587 DSC_0558The theme for the event was to honour the athletes and on hand were two native athletes to share their stories with everyone. Waneek Horn-Miller, a Mohawk of Kahnawake, was a member of the women’s water polo team that won a gold medal in the 1999 PanAm Games in Winnipeg. She spoke of her upbringing by a single mother of four girls, former model and First Nations activist Kahn-Tineta Horn, in a small two bedroom apartment. Her two older sisters are doctors and her younger sister is a gemini nominated actor. DSC_0572 DSC_0575Also on hand was Mary Spencer a member of the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation. She was a part of the Canadian team in London 2012, the first games to feature women’s boxing. She has won three World Championships, one Pan American Games gold medal, and eight Canadian Championships.DSC_0582 But, my most memorable moment came early in the proceedings. I had the opportunity to sit in the shade and talk to an amazing man known as Mishomis (which means Grandfather) who is the “Fire Keeper” of the sacred fire that has burned on this sight since the first day. DSC_0517He explained the significance of the fire to me and the rituals that go with it. During our chat he was asked if he could go and help with a prayer for the opening ceremonies. He looked around, everyone else seemed to have gone to see the grand entrance so he asked me if I would fill in for him on his short absence. He gave me a gift of tobacco, told me to accept it with my left hand because it is the one closest to the heart and for a time I was the official “Flame Keeper”. A few people came by to say a prayer on their way into the Pow Wow, offered gifts of tobacco, thanked me for sitting in and went on to join the festivities. When Mishomis returned it was my turn. I followed the rituals and said a prayer for peace, love and thanks for such a wonderful moment in my life. I also asked for a little support for my friend Karen Cowdery as she goes for funding next week with her the thing that brought me here in the first place.DSC_0512 As always, enjoy Toronto.

Sunday In The Park, High Park Toronto, July 20 2015

Serendipity is described as the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. High Park has been a big part of my life, in fact my mom and dad came here regularly when mom was pregnant with me. Throughout our lives, no matter what part of the city we lived in, we would always come here to play and in all seasons. I came here yesterday thinking to watch some PanAm games men’s cycling road racing. What a great event, my park transformed into a stage for a truly world class event. I have seen all kinds of events and people in this place, many rallies, family and political gatherings, even had a chance to sit with the monks during their daily afternoon devotion so this event was going to be grand. And it will surely be…… Saturday when the event actually takes place. Seems at 56 I can’t read a  schedule so well anymore. So what follows is my walk home through the park camera in hand.DSC_0334I started at the northern edge, hard to believe that the hustle and bustle of Bloor St.W. is just behind this waterfall. As I headed south i decided to take some lesser trodden paths through the woods that my dogs Yogi, Butch and I have cut through many times. The first thing I met was this Downy Woodpecker, love the spots on his back.DSC_0330 DSC_0332-001As i got into a stand of trees I met this cute bunny and his friend. I tried to catch a shot of both of them but they were really fast heading for cover. This is one of the few areas in the park were the sounds of the city surrounding you actually almost disappear entirely.  DSC_0343 Next through the Allotment Gardens. Nice to see that people are more interested in growing flowers and herbs instead of tomatoes and lettuce. Provided for some beautiful scenery, an oasis of rustic charm, complete with this classic looking bicycle.DSC_0351 DSC_0356 DSC_0359 Next seen was a Red-bellied Woodpecker doing what they do, you know, pecking wood. DSC_0369 DSC_0364As I cleared the woods I came across this bunch of drums waiting to be picked up and wished I had been a bit earlier. I bet they sounded great. DSC_0371I continued south to my favourite pond, the place that I draw a lot of peace and Zen from. I was met there by a male and female couple of Northern Cardinals.DSC_0395  DSC_0404 After some fussing the male took a higher post, surveyed the situation, and then seemed to shout out his instructions to the female who had begun gathering sticks.DSC_0405 DSC_0408 The next pond gave me my first sighting, this year, of a Great Blue Heron. One of the most amazing and majestic birds. I have always been enthralled with these guys, so strong and so graceful. DSC_0422This one had to share this little group of rocks with a pair of fairly large Cormorants. I guess the eating is good in this pond.DSC_0420 As I turned at the bottom, now just a stone’s throw from The Queensway I met an interesting man, Danny Mullin, one of the hard-working well to do neighborhood folk that helped save the Revue theatre on Ronces. We had a wonderful conversation about the neighborhood, this park, and the ducks that seemed to be playing heads or tails.DSC_0431 DSC_0424 As we parted ways, and the rain and thunder began, I headed north and east towards home. As I left the park and saw all the barriers in preperation for next weeks event, I thought, yeah I will come back next Saturday, that cycling thing might be fun too! Even this squirrel seemed to smile at the thought. DSC_0409So if you get a chance, take a walk through the park, and if you walk just slowly enough you would be amazed what you can see. Enjoy Toronto!`

Junior Carnival Parade , Scarborough Malvern , Saturday July 17, 2015

I had the opportunity to travel out to Malvern on Saturday to take in the Junior Carnival Parade. DSC_0083Approximately 2000 kids in some really awesome masquerade costumes take over the streets of Malvern to the pounding beat and sounds of Soca, Steelpan and Calypso music. As I got there the participants were just getting set up getting those final last minute touches and instructions for the parade. DSC_0096 This event is meant to give the youngsters a taste of playing mas and not having to take part in the huge day long parade to follow on August !st. The singing of the national anthem, a prayer and a few words from organizers and politicians and it was time to cut the ribbon.DSC_0093 DSC_0103 It was awesome to see the enthusiasm and joy these kids had for the event. A true celebration of heritage and culture wrapped in incredible colours, sights and sounds. DSC_0106 DSC_0108This event has become an integral part of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival which has become a truly international event and the largest cultural festival of its kind in North America.DSC_0200 DSC_0228The floats were inspired by many influences from Disney to super heroes and a large contingent even paying tribute to the games and sports currently being held in and around Toronto.DSC_0113 DSC_0121 DSC_0123 It took quite a bit of effort to whittle down the number of shots for this article so my apologies to those I didn’t show but they were all so beautiful, My thoughts were that this day belonged to the kids so most of these shots were of the smiling happy young boys and girls that made it such a wonderful event.DSC_0225 DSC_0271 DSC_0264 DSC_0181 Thanks to all 2000 or so young people that took part and many thanks to the parents and organizers for putting on such a terrific event, I know there must have been many many weeks if not months of preparation and sewing and love that went into this.DSC_0127 DSC_0136 DSC_0137 DSC_0141 DSC_0155 DSC_0158DSC_0163DSC_0167 At the end of the parade route each performer and group got to show their stuff to this hard working group of judges. DSC_0274 DSC_0275 DSC_0289 DSC_0315Afterwards a family day fair took place in the park featuring a few speeches, much food and music and much celebration of all things Caribbean and I’m sure a lot more smiles and sunshine. Even an opportunity to learn a bew beats on a steel drum.DSC_0318 DSC_0320 Many thanks to the many volunteers that were nice enough to make sure everyone had plenty of water and snacks. As always, enjoy Toronto!