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We love festivals!

Fireworks at Canada Day (Wiki Commons)Editorial: I had lunch the other day with a long-time traveller who once hopped planes to see the world but who now spends weekends and vacations hauling a much-loved trailer to music festivals around Canada and United States. Festivals seem to be everywhere and they’re drawing people in: writers’ festivals, chamber music festivals, art festivals, wine festivals, street festivals, busker festivals. The list is endless.

I live across the river from my country’s Parliament Buildings and last night fireworks lit up the sky in celebration of Canada’s birthday. Reporters made their way through the crowd asking people where they were from; many had travelled from other parts of the country (“every Canadian needs to spend at least one Canada Day in the nation’s capital,” said a woman from Alberta) and as far away as China (it was this family’s second Canada Day experience).

When my kids were growing up, the Canada Day fireworks were always at the top of their “never miss” list, even getting me to sign a pledge several months in advance promising that I would take them right there for a front row view. The Celebration of Light when “Vancouver shines bright”  has equally impressed us with different countries competing with firework displays over English Bay.

We Canadians like to brag a bit about our festivals. Like the Calgary Stampede, which just happens to be “the greatest outdoor show on earth” with the “world’s largest rodeo”. Or Pride Week, “one of the largest organized gay pride festivals in the world”. That just ended in Toronto, partnered this year with World Pride so it was bigger than ever. Soon Toronto will host “North America’s largest street festival”, Caribana.

The International Jazz Festival in Montreal winds up later this week, said to be “the world’s largest”. Soon there will be Just for Laughs, “the largest international comedy festival in the world”.

Our festivals just don’t happen in summer; some Canadians (not me) also celebrate winter. So in my hometown its Winterlude where you can skate down “the largest skating rink in the world” (7.8 km/5 miles), unless the weather suddenly warms up and the ice on the river gets slushy and ice sculptures start to melt.

While “the biggest” gets the most applause, when I was a kid I just loved the Apple Blossom Festival held each spring in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. Everyone seemed to be involved in building the floats and one year I even got to sit on a float and be in the parade (I think I was a princess of sorts).

I much enjoy festivals in other countries too. A top contender has to be  All Saints’ Day in Todos Santos, Guatemala with its crazy horse race. There are many festivals in Thailand and they seem rather romantic, such as the Loy Krathong Festival when small lotus-shaped boats made of banana leaves and containing a candle, three joss sticks, some flowers and coins are floated down canals and rivers all over the country.

This month on Riding the buses we are going to the “carnival capital of the world”, Rio de Janeiro through the eyes of a young Canadian who to her surprise found herself in “one of the most interesting artistic events on the globe”, the Samba Parade. Lots of fun.

Travel well.

Sylvia Fanjoy, editor

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