Roncesvalles BIA puts the word 'Polish' back in annual festival name after community backlash

·2 min read
The Roncesvalles BIA announced Thursday that it will change the name of its September event back to the Roncesvalles Polish Festival.   (Submitted by Marianna Osko - image credit)
The Roncesvalles BIA announced Thursday that it will change the name of its September event back to the Roncesvalles Polish Festival. (Submitted by Marianna Osko - image credit)

The Roncesvalles BIA announced Thursday that it has changed the name of a popular annual event in the neighbourhood back to the Roncesvalles Polish Festival after getting considerable backlash for removing the word "Polish."

The outcry from the community included an online petition with 5,400 names.

"We've listened to the comments from many very reasonable people in the Polish community," said Chomentowski. "There were some very unfortunate misrepresentations of what we had intended; we were simply trying to be more inclusive when the name was changed," Andrew Chomentowski, the chair of the event, told CBC News.

The initial change to Roncesvalles Festival occurred in June. Chomentowski said the rationale was to merge a smaller event, Roncy Rocks, which takes place in June, with the Roncesvalles Polish Festival, which runs in September.

Not wanting to confuse attendees, Chomentowski said the board and BIA members agreed with a proposal to change the name, "never once thinking that removal of the word 'Polish' would offend so many people."

Adam Langley, vice-chair of the Roncesvalles Village BIA, said in a previous interview that returning after a pandemic-induced hiatus with a combined festival was also a way to reduce costs for participating businesses.

Mike Ostrowski, who started the online petition on change.org, told CBC News earlier this week he's been living in the neighbourhood for 12 years, and has attended the event for even longer.

"I think that's what makes Toronto unique as a city in North America … that we can be truly multicultural," he said. "And when you see an element of that disappear, people are upset about it."

Ostrowski commented on the recent decision in an online post that appeared on the petition site Thursday.

"Though this is a good first step in repairing the hurt and anger the BIA name change attempt had caused, it is up to us to make a statement that Polish culture and heritage is not an inconvenience but the source of celebration that draws people to the neighbourhood," Ostrowski wrote.

Meanwhile, Chomentowski is hoping the BIA can put the issue behind it. He's also hoping for more financial support for the street festival because "certain sponsors have wavered as a result of some of the controversy that has been created."

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