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Toronto Art Festival to return this weekend

TORONTO — Over the years it’s been called the Toronto Festival of Arts or the Toronto Arts Festival, but each year it has offered a variety of arts and crafts, music and fun.

Now in its 43rd year and dubbed the Toronto Art Festival, the event will return Saturday and Sunday following a pandemic-imposed hiatus.

Julie Ault said she and other members of Focus in Toronto, the volunteer group behind it, proceeded with this year’s plans cautiously while buoyed by the enthusiasm from those who learned of their efforts.

“We had a lot of good feedback about that. Everybody’s really happy we’re having it again,” said Ault, who is joined by President Brenda Cich, Treasurer Linda Beckett and Secretary Eileen Allison in leading the group.

Ault said more than 70 craft and food vendors have been booked for the event, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday along North Third, Market and Main streets and in the city’s Gazebo Commons.

She added there’s still space available and interested vendors may contact the group through its Facebook page at Toronto Ohio Art Festival for information.

In addition to a variety of food offered by area food trucks, festival-goers will be able to partake of an assortment of sandwiches, desserts and other entrees served up by members of Riverview United Methodist Church, the Toronto High School Band Parents and the Toronto Lions Club.

Toronto Lion Jay Foster said that group again will be serving up barbecued chicken dinners across the street from Riverview United Methodist Church.

To be sold on a first-come, first-served basis, they are $10 each and include chicken, baked potato, side and roll, with beverages to be sold separately.

The club is prepared to sell 100 each day and normally sells all of them, said Foster.

The Toronto Historical Museum also will be open during the weekend. In addition to items representing various aspects of life in the Gem City through the years, visitors will find tote bags bearing a list of some of the many things residents enjoy about living there.

The Lions also will be presenting the winner of its Little Miss Lion contest and her court during opening ceremonies Saturday morning, which also will include a performance by the Toronto High School Red Knights Marching Band.

Ault said uncertainty about COVID-19’s impact this year spurred a decision not to book other musical groups, but a local disc jockey will be on hand in the Riverview United Methodist parking lot to lend a festive sound to the weekend.

She said vendors also will be spaced further apart, with hand-cleansing stations available around the festival grounds, in acknowledgment of lingering concerns about the coronavirus.

But the Focus in Toronto group is working to maintain the spirit of past years, and that includes the Turtle Race, in which numbered toy turtles are drawn to determine the winners of various pages.

The “race” will occur near the festival’s closing on Sunday, but winners need not be present at that time.

At the Gazebo Commons, the group also will be selling chances for a 50-50 drawing, drawings for cash prizes of $500, $100 and $75; and hourly drawings for assorted prizes donated by participating vendors at the Gazebo Commons.

Proceeds from the drawings and the sale of Toronto Art Festival T-shirts will go to future community events planned by Focus in Toronto.

Ault said the group is thankful for the support of city officials and staff, including Mayor John Parker, City Police who plan to be on hand during the weekend and city crews who set up barricades around the streets and assist in other ways.

She noted the event has attracted many visitors as well as local residents and has provided excellent exposure for local businesses and the city overall.

Ault and others behind it hope everyone will embrace it as part of a gradual return to the city celebration of years past.

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