The second TamilFest was the largest street festival in Scarborough’s history, drawing at least 175,000 people to part of Markham Road over three days, organizers say.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne opened the event, which featured food, dancing, sales and historical displays, on Friday, Aug. 26, “and from that moment onward it was a blast,” said David Poopalapillai, national spokesperson for the Canadian Tamil Congress.
The group believes the City of Toronto’s estimate of 175,000 was a bit low, and that close to 200,000 came to the festival between McNicoll and Passmore avenues before it ended Sunday night.
The lifeboat in which 155 Tamil migrants had been rescued off Newfoundland 30 years ago was the centre of attention, testimony to the generosity of Canadians who accepted its occupants as refugees, Poopalapillai said.
“We wanted to send a message (by displaying the boat), and we did send a message.”
Politicians of all stripes made appearances at TamilFest, which isn’t surprising given the area hosts a provincial byelection this Thursday and is at the centre of Canada’s largest Tamil community.
The first TamilFest was held on Morningside Avenue, but handling parking and the large crowds was a problem. The new location made parking easier, but there’s still room for improvement, Poopalapillai said.
There were also more people from different cultures at the festival this time, he said. “This is what Canada is all about," Poopalapillai added.
"Diversity gets celebrated here."