I wrote an article on Monday for Torontoist about this past weekend’s Taste of the Danforth street festival. The main thrust of the story was that the Taste seems to have lost its focus, becoming just another corporate branding orgy like every other. Some of the comments following my post (and also after BlogTO‘s Taste wrap-up) are illuminating, with the vast majority expressing disappointment with the event. While hardly a scientific poll, it’s the kind of thing that should worry the organizers.
Even the people who half-heartedly defended the festival couldn’t come up with much more than that the event was “pretty meh” and probably “less corpo than the Beer Festival.” These ringing endorsements would look wonderful on next year’s promotional posters. “Taste of the Danforth: We’re slightly less corpo than the other branding orgy in town this weekend.” Or “Taste of the Danforth: Toronto’s meh-est street festival.”
So how does a festival which lives primarily by word of mouth deal with such near-universal bad reviews? If the people moved to comment online at Torontoist, BlogTO, and Chowhound are any indication, returning visitors will be fewer and farther between in future years.
I walked the festival twice this weekend and noticed two things: the crowds, while still huge, were noticeably thinner than last year and the year before; and many more people were expressing their disappointment at the supposed bargain prices ($5 for lemonade?), the crowds, and the general atmosphere. The task of navigating the huge event has become an ordeal to be endured, rather than an experience to be relished.
I was especially taken aback by the fact that the best gyros restaurant on the strip was serving up noticeably inferior product at their booth, presumably because it was outsourced for the event. Their normal delicious gyros was available in the virtually empty restaurant a few steps away. Even the merchants seem to be turning their back on the Taste.
All of the anecdotal evidence above suggests that the Taste of the Danforth is already in decline. There are basically two options for the future: the festival can continue down the current path for a few more years, milking its reputation for every last dollar until the whole thing inevitably implodes (can it be long before they start asking for financial support from the City?); or they can attempt to re-invent the Taste as something that people will actually enjoy once again.
My first suggestion would be to dump some of the high-priced corporate tents and beer gardens in the middle of the street and put in some chairs. People need to sit.