Quantum of Solstice
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Quantum of Solstice

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Some of Red Pepper’s costumes and puppets “in their warm resting place” at the Kensington Community Centre on Baldwin. Photo by Jonathan Goldsbie/Torontoist.


At approximately 5:45 p.m. on December 21st, 2008, Torontoist received a phone call from Boy Reporter. “The parade’s been cancelled.” “What?” “It’s been cancelled. Because of the wind.”
A quick trip to the Red Pepper Spectacle Arts website bore this out; the 20th Annual Kensington Market Festival of Lights, aka the crazy solstice parade, had been called off: “Due to high winds, we regret that tonight’s parade has been canceled. Giant puppets, parade lanterns, shadow screens and a 16′ tall fire sculpture are a risky endeavour in these conditions. At this time it is our intention to reprise the event on Saturday March 21st—the spring equinox.”
We immediately marked the new date on our calendar, but on March 8th a lengthy letter appeared in our Facebook inbox: “It was a shock this past December 21st when, for the first time ever, we had to cancel the Festival of Lights due to several consecutive days of pure, deep winter weather….We were so stunned by the prospect of not beckoning the sun with fire and drums, that we immediately rescheduled the event to March 21st.

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Photo of the 2007 Festival of Lights by photopia / HiMY SYeD in the Torontoist Flickr pool.

“Since that time, Red Pepper—like so many others, has been affected by the tightening economy in the form of several cancelled or postponed winter contracts….When we cancelled on Dec. 21, we didn’t actually save any money—all the staging, sound, permits, materials, equipment, vehicles, torches and most importantly the large project staff who create the event had already been paid for. The drastic drop in anticipated revenue over in these past three months has made it impossible for us to recreate the festival at this time…”
Awwww. Crap. But then something called the “Spring Equinox Outdoor Circus Jam!” sprouted up on Facebook, sounding like a smaller-scale version of the parade, albeit stationary and limited to Bellevue Square Park. We clicked “attending.” Then a day later: “After [Red Pepper’s March 21st parade] was canceled, a few of us thought it might be fun to get together in the park in Kensington and just have a small equinox gathering, without any bonfires,” said a Facebook message from the latter event’s admin. “That, too, is having to be canceled, due to the organizers’ no longer being available on Saturday.”
Oh, well. Like Kramer’s and Newman’s rival Millennium events, the date was a bit off in the first place: the 2009 vernal equinox occurs at 7:44 a.m. today. Happy spring!

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