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Festival on Bloor turns 15

June 7th, 2011 · 2 Comments

By Cara Waterfall

Festival on Bloor started as a bet between local business owners and has become a summer staple for Annex residents. Credit: Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre.

Festival on Bloor (FoB) originally began with a disagreement between Andrew Kilgour and former James Joyce Irish Pub (386 Bloor St. W.) owner Robert Costello.

“I said having a street festival would be a great way to bring the community together,” said Kilgour, owner of Kilgour’s Bar Meets Grill  (509 Bloor St. W.). “Robert bet me that I couldn’t get Bloor Street closed. The chair of the Metropolitan Transit Committee said ‘Go ahead and do it.’ It was very simple to start, and I won my bet.”

Bloor Street will once again be transformed into a pedestrian party on June 12 for the 15th annual FoB.  Maxine C. Bailey, FoB coordinator at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre (MNJCC, 750 Spadina Ave.), is running the show for the third year in a row. “I just love the different vendors, performers, and people coming together,” she said. “I’m a Caribana baby, so I love that kind of party atmosphere.”

Community is at the heart of this event, which attracts 15,000 attendees each year. Local merchants (including The Annex Gleaner), live music and theatre acts, and children’s entertainers line the street from Spadina Avenue to Bathurst Street.  This summer, Nintendo 3DS and marketing company Inventa World will be launching their interactive game from a 20 by 20 truck. The Toronto Cyclists’ Union will be promoting green transportation by offering free valet service to anybody who cycles to the event.

Local performers will hold court at the Tranzac Club’s (292 Brunswick Ave.) outdoor stage, which will be broadcast live by CIUT FM 89.5 radio. Live music acts include folk/funk artist Jaron Freeman-Fox & the Opposite of Everything, and No Fish, a group of high school musicians and several of their fathers who play everything ranging from Klezmer (secular Jewish music) to Balkan music.

Juno award-winners Donné Roberts and Adam Solomon will bring their take on world music to the festival main stage. Solomon got his break as a “subway player” in Toronto. At 1 p.m., the Battle of the Bands begins. Other street performers like The Toronto FRINGE (344 Bloor St. W.) theatre artists, and the Ecuadorian ensemble The Imbayakunas will keep the crowds energized.

Shutting down one of Bloor Street’s busiest sections induces headaches, but the MNJCC and local businesses cooperate to ensure the festival runs smoothly. The MNJCC supplies most of the volunteers and some of the entertainment in the form of choirs and fitness demonstrations.

Kilgour, the street festival’s first co-chair, believes the MNJCC is integral to the event’s success. “It does take a crapload of people,” Kilgour said. “Without the [JCC’s] support, I don’t think anybody would be capable of running it.”

YoYos Yogurt Café (417 Bloor St. W.) will be participating in FoB for the first time. “It’s a nice way to welcome us to the community,” said employee Tyler Ball, 30. But the festival is not only for Annex residents. “Even if you don’t live in the area, it’s still a chance to meet a lot of people who live and work in the area, and see what other businesses are available here,” Bailey said.

While Kilgour is excited about this year’s festival, he is nostalgic for the early days of FoB. “There was a great motto that seemed to be coming from the city which was ‘It’s better to ask for forgiveness than to beg for permission.’

“As it’s gone on, it’s become more regulated, all kinds of codes that need to be met.”

The MNJCC and Bloor Annex BIA are co-sponsoring the event. For more information, contact FOB Coordinator Maxine Bailey at (416) 924-6211 ext. 121 or by email at

Tags: Arts · People

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Harrison // Jun 10, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    This is awesssssommmmmeeee!!!!

  • 2 Karen Lewkowitz // Jun 11, 2011 at 10:18 am

    Yippeee! Will be there!!