Riverside’s 2015 Eats & Beats StreetFEST a Record-Breaking Success

“Earth without art is ‘eh’, eh?”: Gorgeous weather attracts an estimated 10,000 Festival Goers, Doubles Last Year’s Attendance

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RIVERSIDE PAINTING: Live painting by the STEPS Initiative at last weekend’s Riverside 2015 Eats & Beats StreetFEST. Photo courtesy the Riverside BIA

By Dennis Kucherawy, Corktown Correspondent

Last weekend’s Riverside 2015 Eats & Beats StreetFEST was like Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” come to life.  Ever wondered what the Torontonians’ spirits would be like if we had winning sports teams? This was it.

“I see friends, shaking hands, saying how do you do…?”  That was the scene across the river from Corktown on Queen Street E., spanning from the Riverside Bridge east past Broadview Avenue to Empire Avenue.  Old friends reunited and new acquaintances were made. ”They’re really saying `I love you.’”  Well, not quite – you had to buy them breakfast first.

What a wonderful ward, indeed!  Strangers were greeting each other, complimenting tee-shirts, children and pets. This felt like Muskoka, not the downtown of a plugged-in, tuned out Metropolis.  What a Gravenhurst Groove!

From the 17th annual Art Walk in Jimmie Simpson Park to a cornucopia of live music, food and entertainment, the Festival was a smashing success attracting 75 local businesses and groups.  Broadview Avenue, for example, was closed south of Queen St. E. for “Bringing Down Broadview” with its  food, games and headliners, the local band “The Don Valley Stompers.”

“What a weekend!” enthused Anjuli Solanki, Riverside BIA’s Executive Director, saying attendance broke all records, reaching an all-time high of an estimated 10,000 people, double from last year’s attendance of 5,000.

“So many people gave us such positive feedback,”  she added.  “People who filled out our feedback survey, 95% of them rated our event as “excellent” or “amazing.  Most of all, they complimented the quality of the food offerings.

“The weather Gods were on our side!” she continued.  “Also, we had the highest business participation rate. “

Jimmie Simpson Park’s 17th annual Riverdale Art Walk tour had nearly 50 participants, reported BIA marketing director Jennifer Lay. All of them stayed for the full length of the 1.5 hour walk along Queen St E.  That drove up art sales and they noticed different aspects of Riverside not commonly seen.

The two-day art exhibition in the park (June 6th & 7th), showcased 170 established and emerging artists.  Even Ed’s Big Scoop got in the spirit.  “Earth without art is eh” observed the scrawl on its sidewalk sandwich board on Queen St. E.

I had a blast as a volunteer, having so much fun and meeting so many cool and wonderful people.  On Munro Street where I was stationed, there was the wonderful rock singer Mirian Kay and her band, and the multi-talented, cosmopolitan musicians of Les Petits Nouveaux. They captured the heart of yours truly, a hopeless Francophile.  I loved their sensual rendition of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Wave,” a samba/bossa nova I usually play on my stereo in the darkest days of January to pick me up.

Both bands’ mikes and amps were equipped by a fab technology that was new to me, courtesy of James Davis of “Tune Your Ride,” a company specializing in …get this, kids… “bicycle powered events & services.”  James invited bystanders to hop on and pedal a stationary bike located next to the musicians’ tent.  The cycling created a current that powered the equipment.  I wonder if he does weddings, grads and bar/bat mitzvahs?

Another bicycle was located just outside Oma’s Chiropractic on the NE corner where staff Karen Jongedijk and Detta Moss beckoned passersby for a healthy treat.  A blender was positioned on top of the back fender.  The faster you pedalled, the better your smoothie would taste.  I wonder if one would fit in my kitchen?

And, of course, there was Micheline of Quad East in her sparkling crimson red “Kinky Boots” pants. Drill sergeants have got nothing on this passionate lady! With her friend/colleague, the spectacularly ripped Bruce, she enthusiastically led an open-air spinning class of mostly young women cyclecisers pedalling to the hypnotic, thumping beat of some great dance tunes like this classic, with apologies to Depeche Mode.

“Cyclecize together, gasping for my breath,

I just can’t get enough. I just can’t get enough!”

It was all great fun, but I have to admit, I feel jobbed and ignored.  I want the Festival’s “Staying Alive” Iron Man award!

You see, I’m a 60-ish sexygenerian. Yet marketing director Jennifer Lay asked me to hump this awkward, heavy, large rectangular box from her “action central” office near “Bonjour Brioche” at De Grassi St., through the teeming crowd jamming Queen St. E., past Broadview Ave. and arriving at  Munro St., located about two blocks before the Riverside Bridge.

It took two guys in their 20s to do it, but not me.  I knew I could rock it, strutting all the way and singing:

“Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk I’m a Corktown man, no time to talk… / Now it’s  all right, it’s OK… Bridgepoint is not far away / We can try to understand just how young I really am… / Ah, ha, ha, ha I’m a Corktown guy, a Corktown guy.”

 And if something unexpected and painful happened, I could always take my mind off it by singing another catchy Bee-Gees classic: “Tragedy.  When you’re a guy and you sing this high it’s tragedy!”

So bending my knees, I bench-pressed the box on to my shoulder and set out.  Bustin’ my moves like John Travolta, I made my way, stopping just one or two times to rest. Oma’s Chiropractic with its marvellous massages was located at my destination.  How convenient was that?  If I needed them, they’d knead me.

I was too hip for the ‘hood.  But just before I arrived at the clinic, my jeans fell to my knees revealing the hot, burgundy Calvin Klein undies my wife bought me for Christmas.  Luckily… maybe disappointingly … no one noticed as I quickly recovered my dignity.

I know you’re wondering:  boxers or briefs?  Depends!

If you missed Riverside’s Eats and Beats StreetFEST… or just can’t get enough party-time,  double-double your fun by visiting the CORKTOWN DAY PARTY / LIVE ART FESTIVAL happening in Underpass Park June 20th.  It’s located on River St., south of King St. E.  

Dennis Kucherawy has lived in Corktown for 30 years. With rock’n’ roll singer/guitarist Rita Carrey, he is presently co-writing a book about her family and comedian/actor brother Jim, who is a long-time friend of Dennis and his wife, Karen. 

 The working title, if Rita agrees is ALRIGHTY THEN – Growing Up Carrey.  He’s working on convincing Rita to play in Corktown at a special local event leading up-to the Games.

More photos from the 2015 Riverside Eats and Beats StreetFEST

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Maracatu Mar Aberto band

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Dancing grapes at the Wine Rack

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Quad Spinning

All photos courtesy Riverside BIA

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