Toronto’s Winter City Festival is squarely placed between winter’s gruelling Christmas and nervier Valentine’s Day.
Now in it’s seventh year, this festival allows people have fun without all the traditional holiday pressures. And it follows an ancient tradition of citywide celebration.
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“It’s a festival of festivals,” explains Julian Sleath, Programming Manager for Toronto’s Special Events Department. “We were looking at ancient celebrations in Rome and Athens, with themes of fire and feasting and procession. We’re bringing all those themes together at Nathan Philips Square, with input from nations all over the world. Every weekend there’s something completely different.
“We’re really lucky to be able to program like that,” he adds.
At Nathan Philips Square, highlight events include The Flaming Lotus Girls assembling Angel of the Apocalypse, a Burning Man-style installation with fire dancers. Comagnie les Passagers’ Time is…uses a 30 by 50 foot vertical stage, using pulleys and levers and chords, and all original music to feature kind of sideways Chinese Kung fu choreography. Comagnie les Passagers also presents the Bollywood-style staged spectacle, Namastey, a love story about an Indian woman in London.
“It’s a completely multicultural approach, and effortlessly so,” says Sleath. “Just looking at the range of restaurants alone in the Winterlicous Festival: 150 places to eat! They brilliantly reflect the huge diversity of traditions in Toronto at the moment. We program in part to match and celebrate that difference, but our city’s diversity also tends to represent itself admirably.”
The Wintercity Festival also balances family activities with great date destinations and free events.
“There’s so many things in it would be crazy for me to suggest any one thing” says Sleath. “My kids love what The Bunch do. They’re part of the Warm Up Festival, and it’s nice to see young people rocking out.”