North Americas Largest Ukrainian Festival celebrates 19 years!

Posted on Sep 21, 2015

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Since the 1880s, when immigrants from Ukraine to Canada embraced the opportunity to work, prosper and raise families in peace and freedom, Ukrainian culture has enriched the Canadian landscape in every facet of life. Today, over four million people in Canada can trace their heritage to Ukraine, and Ukrainian Canadians, by virtue of 120 years of contribution, are well organized and respected members of their communities.

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In 1995, Toronto was twinned with Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, and to mark this occasion, the Bloor West Village Toronto Ukrainian Festival was established under the umbrella of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress - Toronto Branch. Originally known as the Bloor West Village Ukrainian Festival, it was meant to be a showcase of the most widely identifiable aspects of Ukrainian culture in Canada – music, dance, food, visual arts and community. It was an instant hit, establishing itself as one of the premier Ukrainian festivals in North America and growing to attract audiences well in excess of 500,000 from across Canada, the US and abroad.

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The Festival takes pride in turning its spotlight on contemporary professional and amateur artists and performers from North America and Ukraine, and in celebration of Toronto’s diversity, invites a local performing group representing another culture to bring its talents to the main stage each year.

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Throughout its history, the Festival has hosted prime ministers and other politicians from all levels of government. The parade that launches each Festival has been led by marshals including the Rt. Hon. John Turner, businessman and philanthropist James Temerty, music legend Randy Bachman, investigative journalist Victor Malarek, Senator Raynell Andreychuk, media celebrities Luba Goy, Mimi Kuzyk and Ted Woloshyn, community activist Maria Szkambara, former vice-president of TorStar and Metroland Media Group Ron Lenyk, celebrity chef Ken Kostick, Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, and former Ontario Education Minister Gerard Kennedy.

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The Festival’s main stage has seen top performers from Ukraine including Ruslana, Vopli Vidopliassova, Mad Heads XL, Mandry and Pikardiska Tersia, as well as The Ukrainians from England, Canada’s many Ukrainian dance companies such as Barvinok, Desna and Rusalka to name a few, and bands such as Edmonton’s Kubasonics and many others.

The Bloor West Village Toronto Ukrainian Festival also has provided an opportunity for outreach to those who have taken part in the parade, the stage and the kiosk areas, including the Canadian Armed Forces, the Scotiabank Run, the Ukrainian Collective of Artists, university student clubs, dance groups, choirs, sports and martial arts clubs, and local, municipal and federal politicians. As a result, it attracts diverse audiences of multi-generational families. Repeat visitors are a mainstay, as evidenced in bookings at the Festival’s host hotels, from letters and emails, and from the reports of local business owners and street vendors.

The Festival has a Board of Directors and a committee of organizers whose members bring their diverse experiences and ideas to the table. Some volunteer in other festivals such as Harbourfront and the Toronto International Film Festival, as well as in industry meetings, seminars and tourism conferences. The Bloor West Village Toronto Ukrainian Festival is a member of Ontario Tourism, Tourism Toronto, Festival and Events Ontario, SOCAN and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress - Toronto Branch.

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