The Toronto Beaches Annual Easter Parade has just ended and Toronto's East End is slowly returning to it's normal routine and traffic patterns. For over 40 years now, East End Toronto has enjoyed a parade celebrating Easter and the beginning of spring. The Beaches Easter Parade has grown to be a popular event, with about 50,000 people crowding this family-friendly neighbourhood for an afternoon outing with their kids.While many of the visitors are drawn from nearby Leslieville, Riverdale and Danforth Village, some folks drive in from the suburbs to be a part of the largest Easter Parade in the Greater Toronto Area. Now officially sponsored by the Lions Club, the parade runs along Queen Street East for about 2 KM from Neville Park to Woodbine.
The parade includes floats, costumes and, of course, the Easter bunny. And since it wouldn't be Easter without chocolate eggs, you'll see plenty of floats handing out miniature sweets to the kids. Themes of the floats and marchers may not always relate directly to Easter, but it's all good fun. Over the many years the Easter Parade has been around we've seen Zoo animals, Shriner mini-cars, sailboats, vintage cars, and every colour and shape of float you can imagine. Gymnasts, martial artists, cheerleaders, dancers, bands and entertainers have graced the 'floating' stage along Queen Street at one time or another. Of course, every parade needs a 'Grand Marshall', and in this case it's usually someone chosen for their contribution to the community.
There aren't many communities in Toronto where an annual event like this would work, but somehow it works here. The entire neighbourhood puts up with the road closures and parking problems year after year, with some sense of pride. It gets people out of their houses and cars, and into the streets and cafes, where we mingle with our neighbours and get to know each other just a little bit better. Bumping into your neighbours at community events creates a sense of belonging and a sense of shared ownership of the community. I think that's a big part of what makes Toronto Beaches one of the most desirable neighbourhoods in all of Toronto.
If you live anywhere in the GTA, you should visit the Beaches some sunny day, for one of the many community events. Bring your walking shoes. Like any great neighbourhood, it's best explored on foot, and you can walk from one end to the other in about half an hour. With the shops and cafes, most people spend all day - and come back again!