Tuesday, March 15, 2011

OH OH.......City denies Afrofest an event permit | Toronto & GTA | News | Toronto Sun

City denies Afrofest an event permit | Toronto & GTA | News | Toronto Sun

The popular Afrofest festival that has celebrated the sounds of the dark continent for 23 years at Queen’s Park has had the plug pulled on this year’s festivities.

Also refused a special event permit by City Hall is the Toronto Freedom Festival which was slated for May also on the north lawn of Queen’s Park.

Disappointed Afrofest organizers said the city’s park, forestry and recreations department refused to issue them a permit for the two-day event in July that is a highlight for the African community in Toronto.

“This is the most significant event every year,” said festival president Michael Stohr. “People are shocked and stunned by what is happening.”

Stohr said the refusal came as vendors, bands and musicians were being booked.

“I think Afrofest as we know it is gone,” he said on Monday. “I think the festival would be set back 20 years if we moved to another venue.”

He said there were complaints regarding noise, traffic and other issues over the years.

But, city officials said in an e-mail the complaints included issues related to noise, parking, damage to turf, excessive garbage and failure to clean up.

Manager Sandy Straw said Afrofest’s request for a permit won’t be considered because of violations in 2010 and previous years.

“I encourage you to develop a plan that is in compliance with parks, forestry and recreation special event guidelines,’’ Straw told event organizers.

Afrofest board member Alistair Wentworth said planning is underway as organizers try to find another location.

“The event has made a big contribution to the culture of the city,” Wentworth said. “We are going ahead with our plans and will be looking at venues.”

He said the event, which has dozens of vendors booths, attracts about 30,000 fans daily who are entertained on three stages by dozens of performers.

The festival pumps about $1 million yearly into the local economy, organizers said.

Freedom Festival spokesman Crystal Reinhard said her event was about to celebrate its fifth event this year.

“We are very disappointed,” Reinhard said on Monday. “We are still hoping to have an event at Queen’s Park but we are also looking for another venue.”

The event, which boasts a marijuana march through downtown, attracts about 30,000 people yearly, she said.

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