Festival traditions shaken up by Old Cabbagetown BIA staff changes

Eric Morse –

Old Cabbagetown Business Improvement Area (BIA) staff changes appear to be making a slaw of some Cabbagetown Festival traditions.

Immediately after the successful 2013 festival, Nauoda Robinson and Krissia Valiente—who had been staffing the BIA office at Carlton and Parliament—departed simultaneously on maternity leave. After some months’ uncertainty, David Blackmore, formerly executive director of the Cabbagetown Arts Centre, was hired as interim executive director and a professional organizer was brought in to manage the 2014 festival.

Now that the 2014 festival has wrapped, the BIA staff is in flux once again: Blackmore has resigned to announce his candidacy for the Ward 28 council seat against incumbent Pam McConnell. BIA chair Frank Bernardo has informed The Bulletin that Robinson and Valiente are expected to return to their positions in October. In the meantime Jessica Haines, who coordinated vendor relations during the festival, has been appointed as interim staff.

Robinson and Valiente will return to interesting times. For the past two years, residents of the neighbourhood have expressed strong disappointment that the weekend is no longer led off by the traditional Cabbagetown Parade. The major reason for its cancellation is generally understood to be that the parade interfered with the conduct of business by Parliament St. vendors.

Tiffany Smith, co-proprietress of the Local GEST pub on Parliament St. (successor to the long-lived Ben Wicks) has spearheaded the launch of a petition to restore the parade. The petition was started on the opening day if the 2014 festival. At press time it contained over 200 signatures and according to Smith will remain open till after the civic election Oct. 27. It would then be submitted to the BIA board of directors as the board is responsible for seeking approvals for the closure and use of the streets.

“If finances for the parade are the issue I’m definitely prepared to look into independent sourcing so that the BIA doesn’t carry the full burden,” Smith said in an interview.

Another festival tradition is Blair’s Run which usually kicks off the festival on Saturday morning. In 2014, it was rescheduled to Sunday morning. This elicited some unhappiness when it was announced since—pragmatically speaking—an early run on Sunday can inhibit full enjoyment of the Saturday night festivities. However organizer Marilyn Marshall noted to The Bulletin that the Sunday timing seemed very successful and she is happy to consider a repeat of the time slot.

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