Taste of the Danforth serves up fun for million-plus revellers

For many, Toronto’s annual Taste of the Danforth means scouting the stretch between Broadview and Jones avenues in pursuit of mouth-watering souvlaki or baklava.

But for Windsor, Ont., native Ryan Michael James Parent, the festival is about getting back in touch with his roots.

“My mother is of Italian descent but her family fled to the Greek Islands when she was young, so there is a strong tie to the Hellenic culture,” he said. “I come every year for the food and the lively spirit this festival has to offer.”

Founded by the GreekTown on the Danforth BIA in 1994, the Pilaros Taste of the Danforth has grown into the largest street festival in Canada. About 5,000 people attended in the festival’s first year. This year, organizers were expecting 1.3 million visitors from Aug. 5 to 7.

Live entertainment, including Second City sketch comedy, traditional Greek dancing and performances by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, graced three different stages. Other festival features included a Kids Fun Zone and a Sports Zone.

Entrepreneur John Quarterly, an engineer-turned-event planner, said he started working the Taste of the Danforth when it was still in its infancy. He rents canopies to local businesses wanting an outdoor presence during the festival.

“Right now I have about 14 tents going strong along the street,” he said. “The vendors are really what the festival is all about. I think the tents create an atmosphere you can’t get any other way.”

Angela Hoffman agreed. Originally from Oklahoma, Hoffman said this was her first Taste of the Danforth.

“It was a great opportunity to experience the Greek culture’s food and traditional dance,” she said. “It also gave me a chance to experience Caribbean, Italian and pan-Asian food.”