With a thriving Tamil diaspora, it’s not surprising that Toronto would become home to Tamil Fest, the largest street festival of its kind, outside of the Indian subcontinent.
Held for the very first time in 2015, Tamil Fest has grown year over year with over 100 000 attendees at each event, including revelers from near and far.
Beyond providing an immersive experience for those in attendance, the festival has also been a labour of love for organizers.
With efforts led by the Canadian Tamil Congress, the host organization, and the support of all levels of government, Tamil Fest has brought forth opportunities to recreate and share memories, and cultural moments of significance; to celebrate everything that global Tamil culture encompasses in Toronto, the city that brings the world together.
The festival includes traditional and fusion style performances, featuring singers, dancers and musicians; demonstrations including those of the ancient martial art silambam; vendors selling everything from clothing and accessories to housewares and tech; activities and games for kids; fashion shows; and of course, what festival would be complete without all of your culinary favourites being served up, hot and fresh to order. Kothu roti, appam, mutton rolls and dosa? Yes please.
In addition, the festival offers advocacy groups and not-for-profit organizations with the opportunity to share their work and connect with the community. For instance, this year’s festival will feature the kick-off for the Canadian Tamil Congress’ 9th annual Walkathon. Proceeds raised by the Walk will support the resettlement of Thennamarawady Village through the Trincomalee Welfare Association and Thennamarawady Rural Development Society. Visit their booth to sign up and find out more!
Tamil Fest 2017 will also include displays of a vintage car collection, featuring British makes that once took to the streets of a pre-war Jaffna (including a 1957 Morris Minor, a 1993 Mitsubishi Pajero, and Austin A40 Somersets), and a lifeboat which arrived in St. John's 31 years ago, carrying about 75 Tamil refugees, into the country that would provide them with the opportunities they risked their lives for.
In these two components we see what makes Tamil Fest so much more than just a street festival; it is a celebration, a commemoration and a testament to a past, present and future made possible by the resiliency of the Diaspora.
In its first year, the event was held on Morningside Road in Scarborough, drawing crowds of more than 90,000 over the weekend. Though the excitement was palpable with the announcement of the inaugural festival, the large turnout was unexpected and the space just barely accommodated event elements.
To provide the festival with an opportunity to continue to grow, and attract more attendees, the city of Toronto worked with organizers to have Tamil Fest moved to a larger, more central location on Markham Road. In 2016 the result was that over 175,000 attendees participated and Tamil Fest became one of the largest street festivals of its kind in Canada.
Whether you’re a fan of live music, a lover of Tamil food, or enamoured by history, Tamil Fest is where you’ll find a bit of everything you’re looking for.