The Weather Channel promised wonderful weather for the 31st Anna Picnic of the Toronto Burgenländer Club on the 22nd of July. It stayed sunny all day and the temperature was around 28 Celsius at the Slovenian Evening Bell Park.
This annual event is dedicated, as the name indicates, to St. Anna – and as close to the 26th of July, as decreed by Pope Gregor XIII in 1584. Father Ed Eherer celebrated the Holy Mass at the park’s chapel on the hill at 11:00 am, and most of the visitors and guests attended.
After the mass lunch was served. Wiener Schnitzel was one of the favourites while the juicy sausages ran a close second. With a ‘Gösser’ beer, to wash it all down, it constituted a very enjoyable meal. For the sweet tooth the ladies auxiliary supplied a large variety of cookies and cake.
After the welcoming addresses and singing of the national anthems the Golden Keys from Kitchener invited the crowd to the dance floor.
But not everyone was interested in dancing, because for them, one of the highlights of this Sunday, was the soccer game - televised on a large screen inside the hall. There were some reception problems until they found the solution: the rabbit ear antenna had to be mounted outside and elevated! Alas, the Austrian team - everyone was cheering for - did not win and I noticed that one of the disappointed fans was surreptitiously wiping his eyes on the way out of the hall, after the defeat by Chile.
The other highlight was the pool – mainly for the younger guests – plus other games for young and old.
Speaking of old things, one ‘entrepreneur’ was there with a great number of old beer-steins – most of them were quite attractive and next to him a young lady was offering some eye-catching custom-jewellery for sale.
But one of the main attractions seemed to be the dance floor and the wonderful rhythms and melodies of times past - but not forgotten.
This Picnic has always attracted a great number of guests from the German-speaking and other communities. The Danube Swabians were present in prominent numbers - but they did not quite outnumber the "Burgenländer" hosts. It is one of those rare opportunities to meet old friends, renew old friendships or to make new ones.
Rhythms of Rio
Now in its fourth season, BrazilFest took over Toronto’s Olympic Island and over 7000 visitors attended the festivities, according to an e-mail from Itabras Entertainment Ltd.
The weather was fantastic but a little more shady areas would have been nice. Last year the festival was closer to the Ferry Dock at Centre Island but the area had been assigned to another event. But the Olympic Island was not hard to find – especially with a REMAX hot air balloon pointing the way.
All day, every half hour, the ferry that holds about 1000 passengers per trip, disgorged its load at Centre Island. It didn’t take too long to fill the island with visitors, many of whom planned to visit BrazilFest.
President of Itabras Entertainment and founder of BrazilFest, Antonio G. Scisci, said that celebrating Brazilian culture goes beyond soccer and carnival – two of the countries best-known exports. "It is much more than that. It is about family, friendships, celebrating music and dance," he also said. His wife Arilda De Oliviera declared that the party is a celebration of "being us, and really a great way to soothe the feeling of homesickness."
This "Festival de Verâo", now known better as ‘BrazilFest’, was started in 2004 at the Sunnyside Café and attracted so many visitors that strategy had to be planned to find a larger location. It is now one of the many great events and cultural links in Toronto.
Entertainment included Rio Samba Divas and their hot, passionate dance flair; Batucada Carioca; Maracatu Nunca Antes; Luanda Jones a Trio; Capoeira Camara; Grupo Simpatia and the Dance Migration as well as the 20-member Batucada Carioca Band.
The balance of the entertainment was provided by the visitors themselves since it was hard to remain still when the magical pounding rhythms hit you and wakened vibes that you did not know how to respond to – except by moving and dancing along. Great! And you did not have to be on the dance floor, the grass did serve just as well.
"Das ist der Rhythmus bei dem man mit-muss", said one of the German guests I met at the bar area of the festival – while he was doing his own version of the Samba.
The festival is attended by Canadians who love Brazil and its culture, as well as by people from all nationalities that share the love of music and good times with their Brazilian neighbours, making the festival a multi-cultural event. Each year the festival has grown in size and prestige. Many Brazilians today call Canada home, many of which are living in the Greater Toronto Area, for them as for many visitors last year, the event has become a real carnival in Toronto with music, happiness and the unique touch of Brazilian friendship for all.
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