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Toronto’s Gay Village hosting 2-spirit block party this weekend

A free street festival in Toronto’s Gay Village is celebrating its 10th anniversary with two days of music showcasing two-spirit artists.

Hosted by the local business improvement area, VillageFest is essentially a weekend block party. Church Street will be closed to traffic from Gloucester Street to Wood Street on Saturday and Sunday, with arts markets, outdoor vendors and two stages set up for entertainment.

This year’s theme is Indigenous and 2SLGBTQ+ arts and talent. 

Emile Kwandibens, the festival’s Indigenous coordinator, says the main stage will feature “a roster of amazing folks within the GTA Indigenous community,” performing songs, dances, stories and drag.

That includes storytelling, jingle dancing and art displays. There will also be elders on hand, Kwandibens says, who will share their experiences and join in the performances and celebrations. 

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Kwandibens, who is Anishinaabe and will be part of a dance performance Saturday, says the festival will be a mainstream showcase of Ontario’s two-spirit talent and culture.

“Oftentimes we don’t see the representation of that particular group of our community in spaces like this,” Kwandibens said. “It gives me great pride to be a part of that.”

In a news release this week, the Church-Wellesley BIA said VillageFest 2024 is likely to be one of the largest queer Indigenous festivals in Canadian history.

There will be artists from other backgrounds too.

A second stage on Saturday will host the Q Musicale, an independent 2SLGBTQ+ festival that’s partnered with VillageFest for one day. The stage will feature over two-dozen 2SLGBTQ+ artists from around Ontario, including Toronto favourite Carole Pope.

A smaller, neighbourhood Pride celebration

VillageFest premiered in 2014 in the Church-Wellesley neighbourhood, when Toronto hosted WorldPride

The neighbourhood BIA has hosted the Pride-affiliated event annually since then.

BIA chair George Pratt, a longtime business owner in the village, says the festival is a smaller scale Pride celebration. He says it’s a great way to take in Pride locally, without fighting through parade crowds.

“When Pride hits, it just gets too busy,” Pratt said. “We’re going to be able to welcome everybody.”

The opening ceremony starts at 11 a.m. Saturday. The festival wraps up Sunday evening with a closing ceremony that starts at 8 p.m.

The full schedule of performances and events is on the Church-Wellesley BIA’s social media pages.

The Imperial Court of Toronto, a drag non-profit, will be fundraising at the festival Sunday to support Indigenous and 2SLGBTQ+ non-profits.

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