On Saturday, October 6th, WSC was proud to work with community partners and launch the first Regent Park Multicultural Harvest Festival. A planning committee of community residents and representatives from community agencies and businesses worked for 4 months to prepare for the event. Haris Blentic, one of the key organizers from Dixon Hall commented that “the day came together very well and will be the launch of similar initiatives in the future that will help to bring this multicultural community together.”
WSC secured funding from Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration’s Ontario Community Builders program and Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Multicultural Interaction Grants program. Human Resource Development Canada also provided funding for two summer interns to help with the planning. “The first step was to hire a community resident as the coordinator,” said Honey Crossley, WSC’s Executive Director. “Hosne Ara was invaluable in reaching out to the community and coordinating the promotion of the event.”
More than 50 volunteers were actually involved in making the day a great success, including a group of local youth from Dixon Hall who assisted with setting up all the tables and displays, performers from different cultural groups, chefs who prepared tastings of international food and speakers from community agencies. “The Regent Park Food Partnership (Dixon Hall, Christian Resource Centre, and the Salvation Army) sees this as the first of many activities to introduce urban agriculture as a vehicle to bring different cultures together” said David Reycraft from Dixon Hall, a spokesperson for the partnership. Many of the residents of Regent Park come from agricultural backgrounds around the world and food products and sharing food naturally bring people together.
James Kuhns from CRC and Olivia Rojas from the Regent Park Community Health Centre organized and lead garden tours to show residents the different cultural gardens throughout the neighbourhood. The garden tours were enhanced by an opportunity for a small group to view the roof top garden at 1 Cole Street. Sean Brathwaite , expanded on the natural connection between growing good food and nurturing positive community relationships.
Also amazing was the support of Daniels Corporation through the contributions of coordinators Katherine Faria and Heela Omarkhail, both of whom worked with the planning group and secured support for the festival. As well, Chris Klugman, owner and chef at the Paintbox Bistro was pleased to be involved and to contribute to the day opening the café and providing tasty treats. The food was overwhelming as 7 community residents, all certified food handlers, provided samples of international fare, including, Elephant Ears, Spring Rolls, Dahl, Chowley, Tea Eggs, Pakora, and Murukku.
In all, over 500 were in attendance, including adults and children of all ages. The children enjoyed an area coordinated by ArtHeart with face painting, puppet makings, puppet shows, and mural drawing. Tim Svirklys organized a team of volunteers who set up all the supplies and organized the activities. Adults attended seminars on diabetes and healthy life styles, henna healing, a sensory garden (an idea coordinated by Elizabeth Bristoll, from Spruce Public School) to learn about different herbs, a composting display, and a display by the first post office where they could try writing with a quill pen.
Karen Boucher, a volunteer put the event organizers in touch with the Native Women’s Centre and Council Fire resulting in native dancers performing at the Harvest Festival. The Aboriginal community is part of the Regent Park fabric and the inclusion of this group greatly enhanced cultural awareness of those in attendance.
Throughout the day entertainment was almost continuous on the café stage and community vendors sold various products at outdoor stands. Julio Rigores from Toronto Community Housing arranged for the 10×10 tents from the Regent Park Neighbourhood Initiative. A team lead by
The Daniels Spectrum is an amazing setting for a community event lending itself to this variety of activities. Artscape is to be thanked for providing the venue and the support personal, including an AV technician.
There is hope that the Regent Park Food Partnership will be able to have a Spring Planting Festival and that these events celebrating the growing season will continue for many years to come. There are many neighbourhoods throughout Toronto where multicultural interaction can enhance the community.