At Toronto's Harbourfront Centre, celebrating Canada isn't limited to July 1; the nation is at the forefront of its activities and events year round.
"Part of our mission is to demonstrate 'what is Canada today?' " says Melanie Fernandez, director of community and educational programs at Harbourfront Centre. "What is Canadian culture?"
To help answer that question, Fernandez produces the centre's summer season of festivals - a mix of events focused on music, dance, food, theatre, visual arts and more, all exploring the diverse communities that make up modern-day Canada.
"We're not looking backwards," Fernandez says. "We're looking forward. It's about those communities and what they bring in their move to Canada. It's about what Canada is now."
Fernandez and her team work with over 450 community-based organizations.
The groups help shape Harbourfront's programming by providing insight on their artists, culture and events in their communities.
Much of the summer calendar reflects that collaboration. Ritmo y Color (July 11-13), an annual three-day Latin American festival will showcase the music, art and food of diverse Latin communities.
There's also the Tigran Festival, a weekend event focused on the culture of Iran, and Island Soul (Aug. 2-5), a festival in August that celebrates the art and traditions of the Caribbean.
"It's a place to challenge stereotypes of communities," Fernandez says. "We're all about creative cross-cultural understanding."
Harbourfront Centre is also celebrating the opening of two new public spaces on its grounds - Ontario Square and Canada Square. The latter, which features more than 41 dawn redwood trees and views of the lakefront, will be officially unveiled at an opening ceremony on July 1 - just one of many events oragnised for the Canada Day party.
Of all its festivals, Fernandez says that the long weekend is one of its most popular.
This year is due to be one of the biggest celebrations yet, thanks to the return of fireworks to Toronto's central waterfront.
"We haven't had fireworks in the central waterfront for over a decade," Fernandez says. The display is set to be one of the city's best, taking off from the water on two barges and set to music. The fireworks are just one component of the extensive four-day festival.
Other offerings include performances by artists such as Jully Black and Elliott Brood, dance programming (including a Guinness World Record attempt at a crowd "Dance Freeze"), and Baconation - Barque Smokehouse's "pop-up" smokehouse, where samplers of bacon-centric food items will be dished out for the celebration.
If bacon isn't your thing, Fernandez says there will be another Canadian-inspired treat on hand: "Beaver Tails."
Canada Day celebrations at Harbourfront Centre run from June 28 to July 1. Here's a look at some of the events.
Friday, June 28
Listen to Dr. Jay de Soca Prince's soca beats on the Redpath Stage while sampling deep-fried "potato swirls" from Spring Rolls restaurant. 7-9:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 29
Show off your breakdance or hip-hop dance skills at the WestJet Stage for the Urban All-Styles Dance Battle. 2-3:30 p.m.
Take a behind-the-scenes look at the touring life of one of Canada's most beloved bands, The Weakerthans, in the film We're the Weakerthans, We're from Winnipeg. At the Studio Theatre. 8-10 p.m.
Sunday, June 30
Whether you're a slam poetry newbie or veteran, check out Greg "Ritallin" Frankson and the Toronto Poetry Slam Team's performance at the Marilyn Brewer Community Space. 1-3 p.m.
Fireworks, the highlight of the weekend, will end the evening. The best places to watch are from the Harbourfront Centre boardwalk, the Toronto Islands or from a boat on the water. 10:30-11 p.m.
Monday, July 1
Games like chess, Snakes and Ladders, Jenga, Twister and checkers become giant, outdoor displays available for playing. In Zone 2. 1-7 p.m.
Celebrate the official opening of Canada Square, the newest space at Harbourfront Centre. 1 p.m.
Bacon lovers unite at Baconation, Barque Smokehouse's pop-up smokehouse.
For $7, receive six samples of dishes such as smoked pork belly and peameal bacon tacos.
In Zone 5. 1-8 p.m.
For a map of locations and details, visit harbourfrontcentre.com.
Credit: Jaclyn Tersigni Special to the Star
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