After three years of construction, the revitalized Queens Quay is set to re-open with a bang this weekend.
The recently revamped area is officially opening again in time for the annual Redpath Waterfront Festival, with plenty on tap to draw visitors downtown to check out the new features that promise to turn it into a pedestrian paradise.
“There’s the Redpath Waterfront Festival and then our own celebration, the Party on the Promenade,” said Carol Jolly, executive director of the Waterfront BIA. “Ours is named after the fact that we’re being given a promenade after three years of construction.”
Jolly said the revitalized Queens Quay will make the area “the most pedestrian-friendly neighbourhood in Toronto,” with new trees, upgraded lighting and sidewalks that stretch as wide as 30 feet in places.
“We have an unusual way of taking back our street; we’ll be unfurling a 900-metre blue ribbon and it will have a wave-like motion as it goes down the street,” she said. “We’ll probably need at least 1,000 people just to unfurl the ribbon, and we’ll have a ribbon-cutting with the plan of keeping some of the fabric on display all summer long.”
Party on the Promenade will kick off with official opening ceremonies starting at 6 p.m. Friday, June 19 at the Simcoe WaveDeck. Buskers, art demonstrations and artisan market, live music from the Waterfront Singing Ambassadors and others, yoga, canoe rides, stand-up paddleboarding demonstrations and more will take place until 10 p.m. with a parade running the length of the celebrations – from Sherbourne Common to HTO Park East – taking place from 8 to 9 p.m.
Saturday, June 20 will feature many of the same attractions from noon until 10 p.m., along with new draws including the Purina PawsWay Pet Parade at the opening of Martin Goodman Trail.
The festivities will continue on Sunday, June 21 with hip hop demos, buskers, live music and more from noon until 7 p.m.
While Party on the Promenade is certainly a jam-packed affair, it will only be part of the Redpath Waterfront Festival, which has turned the city’s waterfront into a popular destination every year since its inception in 2010.
“We had a big celebration then when we brought the Tall Ships back to Toronto for the first time since 1994,” said Lea Parrell, Redpath Waterfront Festival co-producer. “Since then, we’ve brought them back every year.”
Parrell noted there will be plenty on tap for pet lovers at the festival.
“We’ll have a canine aquatic show where dogs will compete to qualify for the World Championships, then the Ultimutts stunt dog show at Sherbourne Common,” she said. “That will really be a family oriented park with chalk art and Pirate Life doing a pirate show.”
Sugar Beach promises to be a well-attended site as well, though it will have more of an adult bent, hosting the Toronto Wine & Spirit Festival from June 18 to 20. On Sunday, the beach will be home to the Pride Toronto-sanctioned Sweetness Pride Beach Party complete with live DJs, food trucks and a licensed bar.
“The whole event is free except for the Wine & Spirit Festival – and of course food and drinks that people want to buy,” Parrell said.
The new Queens Quay will allow the Redpath Waterfront Festival to be bigger and better than ever. While it has always been able to make use of park space in the area, this year will allow the event to take over even more space.
“We’ve never really been able to program things right along Queens Quay,” Parrell said. “Because of the wide sidewalks, we can do that without closing the street down. It’s been closed so long already, the last thing we’d want to do is keep it closed longer.”
Jolly concurred, noting the revitalized promenade will get a full showcase over the course of the weekend.
“There’s new granite-laid sidewalks and fabulous trees that were never there before,” she said. “It was a challenge while construction was going on, but Waterfront Toronto did a great job of staying on time. It’s a $130-million gift to us from three levels of government.”