Monday, July 27, 2009

Jazz'n Toronto Beaches

Summer in Toronto is fun and entertaining. This is a city of summer festivals. Whatever your tastes may be there is guaranteed to be a festival for you. Foodies hit Summerlicious for prix fixe menus at "A" list restaurants, Taste of the Danforth for the Greek experience and the CHIN Italian picnic among many. We have the biggest, baddest and boldest Pride Week celebration that entertains you with one of the grooviest parades you’ll ever hope to see. Then comes Caribana Festival, the largest West Indian carnival celebration outside of the islands and the largest in North America. Luminato entertains with numerous amazing cultural events like Cirque de Soleil and downtown Toronto boasts a major jazz festival that attracts musicians like Dave Brubeck. The Toronto Islands host several events each summer such as the traditional Chinese sport, the Dragon Boat Races and Wakestock where Canada's biggest action sports and music festival hijinks are outdone only by the good looking young things keeping the beat. Racing through the city's streets the deafening roar of the Indy race arrives before being seen - the speed, the excitement, the very fast expensive cars and people!

Toronto is the kind of place that you never have to leave to experience the world. The world has come to us. It’s a city of such cultural diversity that on any given day or night something is happening that you’ve probably never seen nor done before. And it all breaks loose come summertime! Can’t get out of the city? Spend the entire season going from one event or festival to another and never be bored. At times you may even feel that you have actually traveled to another place.

My particular favourite summer event is The Beaches International Jazz Festival. The downtown jazz fest is bigger but this one is in my neighbourhood. The Beaches is 15 minutes from the centre of Toronto but worlds away. During the early years of the 20th century this is where Torontonians came to picnic, or rent a sail or row boat and spend the day at the beach with the family. And they still do. In its hey day as a summer get away a lucky few came to spend time in their summer home to escape the bustle of city life. The neighbourhood retains its summer town atmosphere and remains a destination for many Torontonians wanting to enjoy a day at the beach or to enjoy a stroll along the boardwalk on a summers’ evening.

During the four days of the Beaches Jazz Festival all I need do is walk out my door to have music and laughter envelope me. Up and down the tree lined avenues the music wafts its way through the hood down to the shores of Lake Ontario. A warm sunny day is the only other thing to wish for. It’s a street fest that engages the neighbourhood and has attracted millions of fans over its 21 year history.

Queen Street East closes Thursday night through Sunday evening for blocks. Whatever your taste in jazz you’re certain to find it here along with R&B, world, rock, and blues. I think I may even have heard a little country one year. It wasn’t always as musically eclectic but now has a little something for every musical taste as more and more people come to enjoy the festival.

Thursday night tends to be locals night. The crowds have not yet descended giving neighbours and friends the opportunity for a leisurely stroll. Going on for blocks taking in the music, the food and the people. Festivals of any kind are great for people watching and the Beaches Jazz is no exception.

This festival is not just for music lovers. The festival is a family affair from babies to grandparents; everyone comes out to take in the scene. Bring the stroller, blankets, deck chairs and voila it’s a gathering of the ages. Without doubt the festival brings out lovers. This past weekend I noticed more couples walking arm in arm, hand in hand, stopping to snuggle and kiss while some of course just could not keep their hands off one another. It’s a hot scene!

I love my neighbourhood. The jazz festival adds a layer of joy. The people are great, the street food gets better every year, the atmosphere is friendly and the music is wonderful. Who knows perhaps sometime we all will fall in love to the sound of jazz on a hot summer night.

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