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September 2 (Sunday): the annual Morris Dancers' "Ale", 3-5 p.m.

Morris Dancers

Morris dance groups have been coming to our park for five years now on Labour Day weekend, to show off their latest dances to each other, and to eat bread and drink ale. It's not strictly speaking a public event but the Morris dancers don't mind at all if you come and watch. It's a joyful, energetic spectacle, with costumes and sabres and staves, sometimes wooden shoes, and bells tied to muscular calves, jingling with every leap.

Noisy sound systems

Twice this summer there were events in the park involving prolonged use of sound systems. On July 15 it was the "Cosmic Kids' Rave and Fundraiser" and on August 26 it was the Dufferin Mall Youth Services three-on-three basketball tournament and karaoke barbecue. City permits specify that all amplifiers have to be turned facing into the park, away from houses, but at Dufferin Grove Park there is no place to turn them. Because it's pretty flat and not that big, the park gives no protection from amplified sound. Park neighbour Bob Mills reports that when the Dufferin Mall Youth Services held their barbecue, he could clearly hear the rapping (which included uncensored lyrics) at his house with all the doors and windows closed, and that after two straight hours he went to the organizers and complained. He says he pointed out to the youth that since there were only a few dozen people in their audience, they could turn their volume right down and still hear it. They tried to cooperate. But in the long run, maybe the most sensible thing is to divert all special events involving prolonged use of sound systems to Christie Pits or Trinity-Bellwoods Park. Both parks have a hollow with steep banks, where sound can bounce harmlessly off the hillside.

Celebrating our Children

Pow Wow Kids

This First Nations celebration, put on by Native Child and Family Services, had over 1500 people taking part this year. Doreen LaRiviere told us that although they invited three drum groups, five came. There were two blanket dances to help the two extra drum groups pay for their transportation to the pow wow (a blanket is held out and people throw in whatever they can donate). The Grand Entry at the beginning of the pow wow included a war veterans group carrying the Canadian flag, the American flag, and the First Nations flag. There were 15-20 invited dancers wearing regalia, plus three invited elders (Rose Logan, Herb Nabigon, and Jackie Lavallee). The dancers were traditional dancers, grass dancers, jingle dress dancers (they dance for the health of the people), and shawl dancers. The children's craft area was remarkable: kids could make shawls, with fabric donated by Fabricland, ribbons, beads, and feathers. There were templates and fabric markers so that the shawls (for girls) and t-shirts (for boys) could be decorated with clan designs. Lots of the kids went into the circle and danced afterwards, wearing their new shawls.

Students from the First Nations School sang, and Wanda Whitebird did a traditional shawl teaching to explain the meaning of shawls. The two big tipis at the north end of the soccer field were from the First Nations summer camp at Grundy Lake. All afternoon the tipis were full of kids, playing. (The reason the tipis were black on the top is that at the summer camp they have a campfire inside - maybe next year one tipi could have a campfire in it here at the park, to show how it works?)

Pow Wow Drums

Joe Scire, owner of Joe's No Frills at the mall, donated all the buns, Maple Leaf Meats donated the hot dogs and hamburgers, and the Ontario Food Terminal donated some boxes of oranges and apples. There was enough free food to last from noon to 3: impressive! Steve Melnick, the manager of the Biway at the mall, donated 20 cases of juice and many bags of diapers, which were the most popular item at the give-away at the end. (A pow wow always has a give-away when people can come and get a gift at the end - gifts are an important part of every pow wow.) The mall's largest tenant, however, was unwilling to make any donation.

Ken Richard, director of Native Child and Family Services, gave the park a beautiful framed poster (Michelle Baptiste, who works for Scotiabank, got her employers to donate all the posters), engraved with a message of thanks for having the pow wow here for the third year in a row. In return, on behalf of the neighbourhood, Jutta Mason gave Ken a bag of ceremonial tobacco grown at the Maple Creek Prison for Women in Saskatchewan, which has a healing lodge.

There were many vendors selling native crafts, and apparently they were happy with the day too - no wonder, because the pow wow was full of both native and non-native visitors, who took pictures, and joined the dances, and bought "scone dogs" and souvenirs. (For instance, Randy Heasman, who will be running an over-35 shinny league at our rink this winter, brought his brother who was visiting from Belgium.) It seemed at the end that people just didn't want to leave. What a nice day that was.

The Second Annual Night of Dread Parade: SATURDAY OCTOBER 27.

Remember last year's parade, when almost a thousand people joined in with the giant puppets and the dancers out on the Bloor Street and College Street parade route? Some of us older folks recall these kinds of scenes from our earliest childhood, weeks and months of mask-making and costume-preparing leading up to the great day when everybody joined the parade. Such events were common in Europe as well as the Caribbean and North and South America - in China and further east - (where didn't it happen?) Thanks to David Anderson and the Saidye and Samuel Bronfman Family Foundation, this kind of carnival has been revived in this neighbourhood. The parade will end, as it did last year, with a great campfire at the park.

David Anderson, director of our park's resident Clay and Paper Theatre, says this year we seem to have more to dread than formerly. He and his company and many people from the neighbourhood have been working every Saturday and Sunday afternoon at the park, making masks and costumes for this year's celebration and parade. David says a featured puppet this year will be modelled on a Portuguese tradition called "Big heads" - a huge head, sometimes with many faces, worn by a puppeteer in the parade. The puppet is now being constructed. Its name is "War head" and it has many frightened and angry faces of war on it. The Night of Dread, says David, is meant to give expression to the many real and imagined dreads that people face in their lives. In that way it builds on widespread folk customs like the Mexican Day of the Dead. The idea is that if you look such "dreads" square in the eye, they may shrink, and you may grow in the strength you need to deal with them.

Last year's parade was a big, lively, dancing revel parading along Bloor Street and College Streets and then returning to the park for performances and more music around a big bonfire. This year David says there is even more music. Participant schools are St.Mary's and Bishop Marocco Catholic High School and Cityview Alternative School (which is bringing a band of didgerydoos). The bands are Arythmics Marching Band, the Knights of Snare, the Two by Four Marimba Band, the Holy Cows Band, and the Escola de Samba. Swizzlestick Theatre is in charge of the stilt walkers (you too can be a stilt walker - come and learn at a Saturday or Sunday workshop).

The parade will assemble at Dufferin Grove Park at 4 p.m. and leave the park at 5.45 sharp. The route is north on Gladstone to Bloor, east to Shaw, south to College, west to Dovercourt, and from there back to the park for performances and a big bonfire (for burning up your fears). David says this year there will be two piglets roasted on a spit, one of them donated by Bairrada Churrasqueira at College and Rusholme, and lots of good park bread, (including the Mexican sweet "bread of the dead (Pan do Muerte)" to eat at the celebration.

For more information, or to find out how you can get involved, call 416/654-6642.

Arts in the Park:

Potter David Windle did a barrel-firing of pottery near the small oven on September 21. Earlier in the summer, potter Tanya Love did a firing in the same place. They'll be back again. Both of these potters are very friendly to passersby who ask questions, especially the kids.

The Darbazi Choir is rehearsing at the rink house every Sunday evening. If you come and stand near the windows you can hear their beautiful a capella music, with the harmonies and the language of the Republic of Georgia. And now the marimba group Nyamamusango has started rehearsing at the rink house on Thursdays. I asked them what their name meant, and Dawne MacFarlane (formerly the treasurer of Friends of Dufferin Grove Park) said it means "meat in the forest." It comes from a Zamibian story about a boy who asks his father for meat to eat. The father gives him meat three times, and when the boy asks the fourth time, the father gives him a spear, saying, nyamamusango. There's meat in the forest, go get it yourself.

When the marimba group rehearses in the rink house the whole building vibrates in rhythm. Both groups get free rehearsal space in return for doing free performances for the park. If the rink opens on time at the end of November, that will be an occasion for celebration, and we'll ask both groups to come and perform.

The second annual, spectacular Night of Dread: Saturday October 27.

The consensus seems to be that this year's Night of Dread was even better than the first one, if such a thing is possible. It was just as cold and windy, but the beat was good and the parade just swept along Bloor Street and back along College. In fact, Clay and Paper Director David Anderson said he spent much of the parade trying to get people to slow down. The musicians told him they couldn't take the pace. But they had to - there was no way to slow people down, and when they arrived back at the park, there seemed to be about three times as many people as when they left. The bonfire where the fears were burned up was surrounded by a thick wall of people, same for the bake oven where the bread and ratatouille were served (and roast piglets from Barraida Churrasqueira, carved into five big platters of small delicious pieces by Ben Figueiredo -- and still they only lasted ten minutes).

Because the parade moved so fast, the food servers were a bit overwhelmed when everyone returned to the park so soon. But neighbourhood girl guide leader Barb Lyons and her great-niece Courtney Glynn were next door to the park in the apartment building, watching the parade live on City TV. When they saw it come back to the park, they came down and offered to help. They stayed for two hours, cutting bread slices and dishing up ratatouille. Later on they helped with the clean-up (there's never a crowd for that!). Without them there, the chaos would have been much, much worse. Others who helped in our hour of need were Rhonda Teitel-Payne from Stop 103 (she took the anise-seed Pan de Muerto, which had been forgotten in the smaller oven until it was almost black on top, and gave out little pieces of the skull-shaped bread to everyone who crossed her path), Melanie Stephens, who was a general trouble-shooter, and Eric Marsden, who heard Jutta sigh and groan about the loss of her flashlight and went off, on the instant, to the Dollar Store on his bike to buy another one. You can't see whether the bread is done in the bake oven without a flashlight, after dark. So that flashlight saved the bread, dozens and dozens and dozens of loaves. The night-time scene of people of all ages dancing to the music of the Holy Cows Band after the theatrical part was finished, beside the big bonfire, was lovely, and no one went home hungry either.

The only trouble of the evening came when a stilt-walker was running (!) across the basketball court and fell and broke his arm. The ambulance crew looked a bit surprised to see all those people with painted faces and strange masks, the big bonfire, the music, the people dancing, the huge numbers of little kids in the park so late. But they took Mark Keetch away (smiling) and he's all right now.

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