It began with a giant game of Scrabble set up in the middle of the street that Lorenzo of Belize Adventure had just led me down. As I stared in awe of the folks standing in the middle of a road playing with oversized letters, Lorenzo just chuckled. “That’s Kensington Market for you! Just wait…”
As we traversed along the closed down roads (it was “Pedestrian Sunday,” the first of this summer season when the streets of Kensington Market are closed to vehicular traffic by day), a burst of color appeared before us. Brightly colored independent shops invited us in with their unique products and a certain degree of warmth that’s definitely lacking in all those chains that have sprouted up around the world. Graffiti was everywhere. And I…was in heaven!
We turned a corner and suddenly heard a lot of drumming. Ahead was a sea of youngsters wearing green shirts. A whistle blew and then, they started to walk. Led by a grownup walking backwards wearing a cape and whistling them along, they processed through the car-free streets, bringing quite the festive atmosphere to the air! Lorenzo even captured this picture of me doing what I do best…taking photos!
It was loud, rambunctious and exciting! But that wasn’t the only surprise Kensington seemed to hold…
“Want to get a drink?” Lorenzo asked, taking me into what appeared to be a small mall of independent shops that reminded me of The Shops at 145 Front Street in Brooklyn. He pointed to a red light over a door, which led to a small, unoccupied dumpling stand. Noise pulsated the right and inside was a thriving bar with music pumping that you’d never even know existed!
Back outside, Lorenzo posed another question. “Want get a churro” he asked? Why not…and next thing I knew we were in Panchito’s Bakery, where seemingly the only thing to get were churros with various fillings. Yes please!
And as we walked back out on the street, a large crowd was gathered as music blared. I looked up and saw a seemingly impromptu rock concert…happening on the roof of a supermarket (!) across the street! As my jaw dropped in amazement, Lorenzo echoed the line I’d already heard so many, many times: “That’s Kensington for you.” He was making this seem like such a routine thing…
The band had just finished when we heard a now familiar drumming just on the other side of the street. The crowd rallied and our friends in green circled up giving a grand drum finale. And they kept going, even as police came by to reopen the street, marking an end to the first Pedestrian Sunday of the season. But the people didn’t care. They stayed in the middle of the street, dancing and cheering away, something the cops appeared to respect as they disappeared without that particular block re-opening. It gave a whole new meaning to the term, “Block Party!”
As Lorenzo and I wandered back to the subway, passing graffiti-laden buildings along College Street, I couldn’t help but think back on the zany world Lorenzo had just led me into; a world that reminded me of a bygone era of “sticking it to the man” and a place where people partied in the streets. I mean, who knew that Pedestrian Sunday at Toronto’s Kensington Market could be so exciting?? I sure didn’t and I long to return to that sort of spirit! Don’t you?