I am, you will likely have gathered by now, a very big fan of street festivals. Not only an excuse for extra fun (always a good idea), they are also a terrific way for one neighbourhood to tell those from other parts of town what’s great about what they do, are, and provide for everyone. There’s always a big food component to the event – and the treats on offer are generally excellent, since we have vital immigrant communities from everywhere in the world in Toronto – and lots of fresh blood coming-in all the time, to keep those who’ve been here awhile connected to their original tradition. But the Polish festival, out on Roncesvalles, just a couple of blocks away from the beautiful and appealingly-wild High Park, does it up in a way I truly adore – the whole thing is made most magical of all, for the kids.

Now, if you were a scheming Machiavellian, you might well make the same choice – kids grow up to be custodians of their culture, and if you want them to have strong positive feelings associated with it, throwing a great kids party for them every year is an excellent start. Funny thing is, you’d make the exact same choice if you’re kind-hearted sweet and filled with empathy (or gratitude, or even memory). Finding that both the most calculating and the most kind plans would be almost exactly the same, one wonders what it is that others are missing here. Yes, invest not just in kids-skill, but in kids FUN.

The ferris wheel was set up just down a residential side-street – and I especially loved the way practically every car had a parent and a couple of little ones, who were absolutely thrilled with that cool whooshing-high perspective on their old familiar neighbourhood.

His cup of tea, precisely

This little teacup ride was set up right in the middle of Roncesvalles – and there was an eager line-up for every run. The fact that it was all kiddy-rides was lovely, because it meant no teenagers were competing, pushing their way in, or making anyone feel bad for not being daring. Instead, we got giggling besties and sublimely introspective sorts, like this quietly well-gratified fellow.

Giggling Pirates

These small pirates were having a wonderful time on this diminutive, but still distinctly energetic rocking pirate ship – and struck me as a great reminder about deriving full enjoyment, even with modest means. How far you commit, can make all the difference!

He’s my brother

This was my favourite visual story of the day by-far. Two brothers went into the crazy fun-house ride, complete with shaky floors, shockingly loud noises and strange things pelting you in the dark – all of which concluded in the traditional barrel-walk through this final spinning passageway. The older brother made it across just fine, but his little brother was scared. He tried taking a step onto it, felt his foot moving out of balance and retreated, again and again. Then his mom started yelling at him (and I don’t know Polish, but I could still tell it wasn’t nice). Really felt bad for the tyke, you could see he just felt worse and worse. Then his brother stepped up – ran back across the barrel, held his little brother’s hand – talked to him very calmly – and then ran him right back out to safety. Best moment of pride and triumph I’ve witnessed in quite some time. Hero-making.

Fun Slide

Nothing simpler, or cuter – because this gravity-powered treat was busy all day long with parents riding down with their little ones held snug on their laps, and other kids who were just big-enough to ride it themselves  (and incredibly proud of the fact). I bet half the thrill was that scary open-staircase going up!

So hard to decide

I can still remember that this ride was one of the very first things in the world that I knew for sure was very cool!  In fact, it was outright overwhelming, how many great options there were to be enjoyed on this spinning deck. Heck, as a lifelong non-vehicularist, I have to admit I was STILL tempted.

But the really cute thing here? As soon as we saw this one, Nada began to tell me about all the problems it caused her when she was a little kid – because she wanted to ride the motorcycle, but also the roadster, and the fire-engine, and the police-car, and the dune-buggy, and the racing car – and she’d spend so long trying to decide which, that everyone else would take a seat first – and she’d have to take whatever was left. Just like me!

I’m going to have to ask some carnival folks about this – but I’m starting to think that this particular sort of multi-vehicle merry-go-round is among the best attended and most re-ridden attractions in practically every kiddy fair on earth. Most agonized-over seasonal joy, almost certainly.

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