On a chilly Saturday morning, as the sun had just started to peak out of the sky, Dan and I made a trek out to Bloor West to see the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the Toronto Ukrainian Festival. It was only my second year attending the festival but packed with the knowledge and remembered memories from the year before I excitedly hopped down the street towards the High Park to get the best spot to watch the Ceremonial Parade that kicks off the festival.
The parade, as at any cultural festival, is a great way to experience a hodgepodge of everything that is significant, unique and representative of that culture.
The parade started out with a bang as the sound of blaring trumpets and thumping drums could be heard somewhere in distance and then, out over the hill, popped the band all dressed in their wonderfully colourful uniforms playing the Ukrainian National Anthem. There weren't as many groups of musicians as I would have liked but the ones we saw were fantastic and really gave you a great taste of traditional Ukrainian music.
Throughout the parade there are a myriad of different groups marching down the road representing their part of the Toronto Ukrainian community. My favourite part of seeing all the different groups walk down the parade is watching all the different embroidery patterns and designs that emblazoned all the men and women. I'll get more into the significance of Ukrainian Embroidery designs in another post since I've gotten way into it lately and all the research and Wikipedia benders I've gone on has to go to use somewhere. I could honestly write an entire essay on the topic....maybe I shall. Anyways, it was such a treat to the eyes to see such amazing colours flood the streets.
|This lady rocking out on the according blew my mind.|
After the parade, our hungry tummies lead us in the directions of the Festival Gardens were would have our first of two, platters of incredible Ukrainian fare. We quickly decided on the whole shebag platter composed of Kobasa (sausage), Varenyky (perogies) and Kapusta (braised sauerkraut). I also asked for a side of Borscht since it was cold out and I felt a nice bowl of beet soup would help warm me up (and it did!).
Unlike some cultural festivals which are littered with repetitive, commercialized vendors, most of the food at this festival is home cooked, traditional goodness. As Dan waited in line, I watched all the women in the back fill the orders with their very own home cooked specialties. They smiled as they handed off heavy, food laden plates and their smiles seemed to be filled with pride as they watched hungry attendee dive into the culinary riches of Europe's breadbasket.
Along with our lunch, we get a few cold Ukrainian beers to enjoy while polishing off our plates and people watching along the fence.
As I've mentioned before, I adore all the incredibly detailed embroidery seen all over the festival. But it's not just seen on people from the parade who purposely got "dressed up" for the event, it's seen on practically every other person. From children, to parents to grandmothers and grandfathers lovingly walking hand in hand down the street. Some of the pieces seem new, the colourful threads shining vibrantly in the sunlight, other pieces seem like precious heritage pieces handed down from generation to generation. Their colours are slightly faded but the history those pieces could retell is worth more than anything else in the world.
At the festival we spent a fair bit of time looking over all the unique gifts and treasures for sale. We found a wonderful set of Christmas ornaments with beautiful Ukrainian designs. I had them as a feature on the tree this year and they really brought a unique touch to the tree.
Before heading off, we collected a few sweet treats for the road.
To finish the day off we watched the wonderful dancers, who came from all over the world to preform at this event, light up the stage with their vibrant costumes, energetic smiles and artistic and acrobatic dance moves! Every dance group had something a little different to offer and you could really see all sorts of different styles of dance in one sitting.
It was the perfect finale to the day. I'm very lucky to live in a city where festivals like this happen all the time. It's a chance to step outside your own traditions and get a taste of another world.