The humidity and risk of rain didn’t keep Londoners from coming downtown in the afternoon to celebrate Canada’s 156th birthday.
Hundreds of people decked out in red and white gathered at Dundas Place and along Talbot Street to take in Canada Day festivities that included live music, dozens of vendors and live performances.
The downtown events were organized by the London Heritage Council. Volunteer Mario Circelli says the council had worked for months to create the daylong affair.
“The Heritage Council and Dundas Place have worked tirelessly to make this place look like it does today,” said Circelli.
Most streetlights lining Dundas Place were adorned with special Canada Day banners, and volunteers regularly handed out small Canada flags to visitors.
Dundas Place from Talbot to Ridout Street offered plenty of food trucks, vendors, and a stage for performances from local artists such as Laura Gibson, Forest City London Music All Stars and Enchante.
“All of the food trucks are local, all of the performers are local,” says Circelli.
At the intersection of Dundas and Talbot, attendees were treated to street performances by the Chinese Freemasons Lion Dance Team – celebrating their 99th anniversary in London – and The Academy Circus of Southwestern Ontario.
One of the most popular people along Dundas Place Saturday was Greg Sturm, a local dressed literally from head to toe in red, white and Canadiana.
“For me, this is my Christmas,” said Sturm in between the countless selfies he took with admirers.
Sturm, 54-years-old, says he has been coming to Canada Day events in colourful attire since he was 19. What started with just a red hat, shirt, shorts and shoes with a flag as a cape has grown into every article of clothing – including rings – either being red or white or having a maple leaf.
While it takes him around three hours to get ready, Sturm says it is worth every second.
“I meet a lot of people from other countries. They are going to take a picture, go home and show it to all their friends and family,” said Sturm.
The day’s events were kick-started with speeches from local elected officials London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos, London North Centre MPP Terence Kernaghan and Mayor Josh Morgan. All three speakers touched on Canada’s complex history and how it can not be forgotten as the country moves forward.
Fragiskatos specifically mentioned the internment of Japanese and the turning away of Jewish refugees in the lead-up to and during World War Two and the treatment of Indigenous Peoples, particularly concerning residential schools.
“But as we reflect, we also look forward. And there’s a lot to celebrate,” said Fragiskatos. “How many people sign up to come here every year, people who want to build a life here. This is the land of opportunity.”
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