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Toronto cancels major festivals, events in July and August, including Taste of the Danforth, Honda Indy
Published Friday, May 15, 2020 3:38PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 15, 2020 10:54PM EDT
The streets of Toronto will be much quieter and less colourful this summer as more events and major festivals have been cancelled by the city to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The City of Toronto announced Friday that it is cancelling the permits for major events and festivals in July and August based on public health advice.
“We hope this will provide clarity to the organizers who start planning these events well ahead of time and they need to know now before they start signing substantial contracts, which would imperil their financial viability if we then later had to withdraw these permits because the health numbers weren’t good enough,” Mayor John Tory said during a news conference on Friday.
In a news release, the city said events with more than 250 people, which includes Salsa on St. Clair, Toronto Outdoor Art Fair, Honda Indy, Toronto Triathlon Festival, Beaches International Jazz Festival, and Big on Bloor, will be cancelled until July 31.
The Taste of the Danforth, Taste of Manila, Toronto Chinatown Festival, Jerkfest, and other events with more than 25,000 people will be cancelled until Aug. 31, the city said.
“I know how much our residents love these events. I do too, but right now from a public health perspective or even a financial perspective for the organizers, these events just cannot be assumed that they can proceed as originally scheduled," Tory said.
In-person Canada Day events, including fireworks displays, were also cancelled by the city. Instead, officials said Toronto will celebrate the country’s birthday with virtual celebrations.
The city said the resumption or cancellation of professional sporting events is not included in the decision as they are subject to the provincial emergency orders.
Tory said the city will repurpose grant funding that was previously approved by City Council to help festival and event organizers.
He said the city’s Cultural Festivals Recovery Program will provide financial and in-kind support to defray financial losses for cancelled festivals and help festival organizers meet payments due to their suppliers.
The program will also help organizers maintain critical operations to survive this year and prepare for their next event, and support planning and purchases that help improve public health and safety practices.
Tory said he hopes that the events cancelled in August like the Taste of the Danforth could be held later in the fall.
“If conditions are right by that time and if that is the wish of the organizers, our economic development staff will be there to help these festivals get through this difficult period for them because obviously, these cancellations impose a hardship on them as well as for other people who would have attended to help with the impact of these cancellations,” he said.
Considered as one of Toronto's biggest summer festivals, the Taste of the Danforth was originally scheduled from Aug. 7 to Aug. 9.
Howard Lichtman, a spokesperson for the festival, said the news of the cancellation is tough, but said he understands that health comes first.
“It’s disappointing for the people who enjoy it every year, but it’s also really tough for the restaurant tours and retailers that are already in serious pain,” Lichtman said, adding that the festival is a make-it-or-break-it weekend for many businesses.
He said organizers will be looking into the possibility of holding the festival later this year or in another version at a meeting next week.
“Are there other versions which allow people onto the street that don’t conflict with the size opportunities? Is there are a way to do a virtual Taste of the Danforth and go online with entertainment? Lots of options that the board is exploring,” Lichtman said.
Toronto-Danforth Coun. Paula Fletcher said she was pleased to hear the mayor say he is open to exploring the prospect of hosting the festival at a later date.
“For these business owners that rely on those days to really make a good amount of money from the millions of people that come here, that’s going to be a big blow,” she said.
Many restaurants and bars have been greatly affected by the pandemic. They were ordered by provincial and city health officials to halt dine-in service in March to prevent the spread of the virus.
Fletcher said she was not surprised by the cancellation of the festival, especially after this year’s CNE was nixed.
“Everybody’s bitterly disappointed but understands that this is a health issue, and we were being guided by health advice from medical officers,” Fletcher said, adding that COVID-19 could pose a danger to the big crowds that the festival attracts each year.
With the reopening of more businesses in the province next week, Fletcher said it’s important now more than ever for people to come out to the Danforth and support local businesses, which have been struggling to make ends meet since the pandemic started.
“I hope that people will help out the Danforth by shopping and eating here soon as the businesses are open.”
In a statement, organizers of Honda Indy Toronto said they are exploring alternate dates in 2020. The annual Indy Car race at Exhibition Place was originally scheduled for July 10 to July 12.