TORONTO - The Greek Gods smiled on the 23rd anniversary of the Krinos Taste of the Danforth. The sun was out all weekend -- and so were the crowds. Over 1.65 million people attended the Festival.
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The Greater Toronto Area lays claim to more than 200,000 residents of Greek ancestry, the third largest Hellenic community outside of Greece. At the Festival, visitors both Greek and non-Greek, had the opportunity to experience being 'Greek for the Day'. Over the last eight years, the Chair, Mr. Voidonicolas, and his Board of Directors, through countless hours of volunteer work, have increased attendance dramatically to the 1.65 million attendees.
This year the Festival introduced an 'It's All Greek to Me!' program to supplement the existing Greek Stage, which featured leading Greek singers, dancers and musicians, as well as the Celebrity Stage that featured Greek superstars.
The four new activities were some of the most popular at the event and included Breaking Plates, The Goddess Artemis Archery Arena, The Valley of the Gods!, and Let's Dance.
a. Breaking Plates - In 1969 the Greek government banned the throwing of plates at Greek restaurants and bars. This popular tradition was reintroduced at the Festival as attendees were given the opportunity to express their 'kefi'. Individuals were able to write the name of an individual or something that was making them really angry on their plate and then toss it into a fireplace.
b. The Goddess Artemis Archery Arena - Before there was the "Hunger Games", and before there was the "Green Arrow" - there was Artemis, the Greek God Apollo's twin sister. She was the Goddess of the Hunt, always depicted carrying a bow and arrow. Individuals had the ability to either learn or display their skills on the archery range.
c. The Valley of the Gods - Attendees had the opportunity to wander through the Valley of the Gods. Which of these Greek Gods are human models? Which are statues? Which are supernatural? Zeus, Poseidon, Athena, and Aphrodite human statues were available to be part of a Greek photographic experience.
d. Let's Dance - Dance like Zorba. Our friendly Greek instructors taught attendees traditional Greek Dances.
Constantine Voidonicolas, Chair of the Board of Management of the GreekTown on the Danforth BIA stated, "The Taste of the Danforth is the biggest Greek Festival in the world. We celebrate Greek food, music, dance and hospitality. Everyone who visits gets to be "Greek for a day". We also encourage tourism to Greece; we give away 5 trips to Greece as part of our promotional programs." The Opening Ceremonies were attended by a number of political dignitaries, including the Mayor of Toronto, John Tory. He commented that the GreekTown on the Danforth BIA was an example of the most vibrant neighborhoods in Toronto.
GreekTown on the Danforth BIA and Krinos Taste of the Danforth Profits Go to Charity
The Festival combines exquisite food, culture and music with extraordinary philanthropy to benefit the local community as well as Greece. Profits from the Festival are donated every year back to the community by the GreekTown on the Danforth BIA. The Chair of the GreekTown BIA, Constantine Voidonicolas, believes that the Festival and the BIA should always be giving back to the community.
Over the years, GreekTown has donated more than $2 million to Toronto East General Hospital. In 2012, GreekTown committed to a further $500,000 to enhance paediatric care and in 2015, GreekTown made a commitment to a joint hospital project between SickKids and a children's hospital in Greece - Agia Sofia.
GreekTown naturally supports a number of Greek initiatives, including donating to the Greek Community of Toronto to help families and schools, SOS Villages which gives orphans a mother and a home, the Smile of a Child, University of Toronto's Greek studies program, the Hellenic Canadian Federation of Ontario, Nefeli (theatre and dance), Greek Community of Mississauga, and the Hellenic Home for the Aged.
The Festival and GreekTown have also supported additional charities and causes such as prostate cancer, among others. As part of GreekTown's annual "March of the Santas", monies are raised for Princess Margaret Hospital through the sale of Toronto Firefighters' Calendars, and toys and donations are gathered for the CP24/CHUM Christmas Wish.
It's not only the big charities that benefit – the BIA has donated SmartBoards to local schools (William McCordic School and William Burgess School) for use by children with special needs, Toronto Crime Stoppers, 55 Division's Youth Scholarship Fund, Riverdale Share Community Association, and The East York Seniors' Foundation. GreekTown has also donated to Dr. Phyllis Billia's cancer research at Toronto General and Toronto Western Hospitals.
Big Economic Impact for Toronto and Ontario
The Festival and GreekTown on the Danforth BIA contribute significant impact to the Province and City. In 2015, the Festival's single weekend economic impact was $88.1 million. These numbers are based on governmental economic models tied to tourism. They don't take into account the great economic impact that the Festival has on the GreekTown on the Danforth BIA's members, which consist primarily of small retailers and restaurateurs.
The Festival is a tourist magnet. Forty-four percent (44%) of attendees travelled 40 kilometres or more to attend the Krinos Taste of the Danforth last summer. The primary reason for visiting the Toronto region for 77% of visitors was the Festival. For a significant 38.5%, their sole reason for coming to Toronto was the Festival.
The History of the Festival and the Organization that Runs It
People are always surprised when we tell them that the Festival is run by a Board of Directors consisting of volunteers from the local community. There is only one full-time staff member. They're also fascinated by the fact that the concept began 23 years ago when a number of competitors decided to get together to participate in what is now known as co-op or coalition advertising.
The Festival is organized by the GreekTown on the Danforth BIA, a not-for-profit organization, run by a volunteer Board, and chaired by Constantine Voidonicolas. The GreekTown on the Danforth BIA is an excellent example of how a BIA can unite local restaurateurs and retailers along a street to promote businesses.
It began as a celebration of Hellenic cuisine and culture. It has grown to become a celebration of both its Greek heritage and the multicultural nature of the city of Toronto. While a number of the events and programs are reflective of the area's Greek roots, the Festival programming and its audience have grown to encompass a much broader spectrum of the Toronto community.
In the first year, approximately 5,000 people attended the Festival. Twenty-three restaurateurs participated, selling an eclectic mix of "tastes" from tasting tables. The following year, attendance grew to 100,000. By 1996, the Festival was so large that Danforth Avenue had to be officially closed to vehicular traffic in order to accommodate over 500,000 visitors. Today, the Festival has grown to approximately 1.65 million visitors during the course of three days and two nights. They come to enjoy food, entertainment and culture. The Krinos Taste of the Danforth is one of Toronto's signature events, showcasing the best of what our multicultural city has to offer - music and the arts, sports and -- of course -- food.
The GreekTown on the Danforth BIA
The Festival is run by the GreekTown on the Danforth BIA. The concept of a Business Improvement Area was created in Toronto, but BIAs can now be found all over the world. In 1970, merchants in Bloor West Village formed the first BIA in response to competition from shopping centres. Toronto currently has 77 BIAs, representing more than 35,000 commercial property owners and tenants. The number is still growing.
The GreekTown on the Danforth BIA is an excellent example of how a BIA can unite local restaurateurs and retailers along a street to promote businesses. The GreekTown on the Danforth BIA is a not-for-profit organization, run by a volunteer board, chaired by Constantine Voidonicolas.
Source GreekTown on the Danforth BIA
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