A street festival has announced it’s rebranding with a name change, and the neighborhood where it’s taking place is in turmoil.
Roncesvalles was once known as one of Toronto’s most Polish neighborhoods, but locals have noticed that it’s become less and less Polish over the years. However, locals argue that this does not mean that the Polish Roncesvalles Festival should change its name to simply “Roncesvalles Festival”.
Polish restaurants and bakeries gradually disappeared from the area, to be replaced by various types of restaurants serving sushi, Italian, Thai and more. As people who have attended the Polish Fest will know, their offerings have also been incorporated into the festival over time, spring rolls mingling with plates of pierogies in people’s hands.
“Building on the long history of the Polish Roncesvalles Festival, we are sure to include fan favourites, like Polka and Pierogi, in conjunction with a new focus to celebrate a wider range of local artists, musicians and , of course, food,” it read. a social media post from the festival’s official account.
While it’s nice to welcome new types of businesses to a neighborhood, a petition has been started to keep the name “Roncesvalles Polish Festival” in order to preserve the history of the neighborhood. Over 800 people have already signed up.
“The Roncesvalles Polish Festival is the largest Polish festival in North America with over 350,000 annual visitors. By removing its “Polish” character, the Roncesvalles BIA is erasing a symbol of Polish-Canadian culture and undermining Polish identity in Canada,” the official statement read. initiative website.
“We are asking the BIA to correct its decision to change the name by putting the word ‘Polish’ back into the Roncesvalles Polish Festival.”
The creator of the website and the petition, Mike Ostrowski, argues that the festival has its individual cultural identity to thank for these hundreds of thousands of visitors. He lives in the area, attends and volunteers for the festival and loves its multiculturalism.
“It offered a uniquely Polish cultural theme while embracing the many other communities in the village of Roncesvalles,” Ostrowski told blogTO.
“Once the name is changed, the celebration of Polish culture will diminish until the festival becomes a generic capitalist festival, which few people attend. The Polish community will not let this happen, hence the error of the name change should be corrected and the festival remain a Polish-themed festival.”
He plans to deliver signatures and comments gathered through the petition to the BIA and three levels of government.
“The response was overwhelming. Emotions ranging from anger to deep pain and sadness that a cultural celebration was diminished by an arbitrary decree from a handful of BIA store owners,” Ostrowski said.
“Surprising is the number of non-Poles who want and comment on the festival keeping its Polish name.”
He hopes to continue taking further steps in the future to continue making progress in undoing the name change.