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Toronto shuts down big summer events

Revelers take part in the Caribbean Carnival Grand Parade in Toronto, on Aug.4, 2018.

Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press

For the second year in a row, Candice Dixon will not see her art wrapped around the bodies of performers.

Ms. Dixon creates costumes and masks for the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, and even though she knew the event was likely to be cancelled again this year, it didn’t make hearing the news any easier.

“It’s really devastating for our community. As [for] myself as a designer, it’s something that is my life’s blood, and what I love to do.

To not have that outlet, it’s kind of left us all a bit lost,” said Ms. Dixon, owner of SugaCayne Designs.

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“What drives me to do this is to actually see my beautiful masqueraders partying in the sunshine and wearing the art. It’s left a hole, and I really can’t wait till we can gather together again and do this.”

The City of Toronto announced Friday morning that it was cancelling permits for in-person “major participatory” events until Sept.

6, or Labour Day, to curb the spread of COVID-19. The city also said it needs to keep essential services available for emergencies. Earlier this year, the city cancelled the annual Pride Parade and other major events until July 1.

On Friday, the city released a long list of large in-person events affected by the new closings.

That list includes the Caribbean carnival, the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), Taste of the Danforth and Beaches Jazz Festival.

CNE executive director Darrell Brown said the exhibition’s future has been cast in doubt by the news. The organization’s finances took a major hit with last summer’s cancellation of the 18-day fair, and expects a total revenue hit of £70-million in lost earnings from ticket sales, exhibitor commitments, sponsorships and other income streams since the pandemic began.

In total, Mr. Brown said the CNE would need £11-million to bridge the gap and help get the organization through this year to the summer of 2022.

Without it, the organization risks insolvency.

“So many people have worked here. If I’m walking down the street with a CNE-logoed shirt, people come up to you and say, ‘I go every year,’ or ‘I worked there when I was a teenager,’ ” Mr. Brown said, adding layoffs have begun at the organization.

“I do believe that at the end of the day, when push comes to shove, the province will find a way to get some funds [for the CNE] … the real issue for us is timing.”

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News that Taste of the Danforth, the city’s annual celebration of Greek culture and food, would be cancelled was dispiriting for Georgia Mantas-Nikopoulos, president of the dance group Levendia-X.

The group has performed every year at the festival and will be celebrating 25 years virtually this summer.

“We pride ourselves on being a multicultural city, we pride ourselves on being able to share our culture, our traditions,” said Ms. Mantas-Nikopoulos, adding that the group is thinking about doing something closer to September on a smaller scale if restrictions are modified.

She is worried that some dancers may not want to come back after a year and a half away: “Some of our older dancers are 50 plus. When their bodies have been out of dance for that long, is that something that they can just jump back into, like someone that’s 24 and eager to do it.”

Mr.

Brown said the CNE hoped to expand on last year’s virtual CNE at Home event to offer it as a subscription-based program, with some free events, but with some premium programming that virtual attendees could pay for.

“We’re actually looking at making that become a 365-day program.

Obviously, we would do something for the fair period itself, but we want to expand that to a broader base.”

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