fire parade, toronto island, august 2014

I don’t know. I mean, village festivals used to be all about serious superstition: connecting with the earth in order to beg its gods not to destroy us with fire, flood or famine. So when a bunch of us hipsters with our aging-hippie parents gather at midsummer(ish) to make paper lanterns and parade around the island and watch a shadow-puppet show and listen to the drumming and gather round the biggest beach bonfire I’ve ever seen IRL…well, aren’t we just playing at paganism? Isn’t it sort of fraudulent and voyeuristic and nostalgic?

These were my thoughts…until I became swept up in the sheer audacity and fun that is the Shadowland Theatre Company‘s annual Fire Parade on Ward’s Island, Toronto. The babble of the crowd drowned out by the roar of the flames. The ring hastily widening as the air heats and the sparks shower down. And then the collective “Ahh,” as the flames died back just enough to expose the metal cormorant rising, phoenix-like, from the bonfire (cormorants are invasive to Canada and are rapidly defoliating the Outer Harbour).


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