So far, 2021 is shaping up to be a repeat of 2020 as far as major events and festivals in Toronto are concerned.
Ontario faces uncertainty in the late winter and early spring months, and officials say wide-scale vaccinations are unlikely until at least late summer. As such, large gatherings seem out of the question for much of 2021.
However, with so many events switching to virtual formats, organizers are hoping to improve on the experiences they delivered last year. And in the best case scenario – ie. COVID-19 spread decreases and cautious reopening can continue – some will be ready to go hybrid if limited and distanced in-person activities (indoor and outdoor) are allowed.
What is certain: Toronto has cancelled all city-permitted and city-run outdoor events until July 1.
“Major festivals and events require long lead times for planning and they rely on city sites and supports and permissions,” Tory said of the decision. “That is why it is necessary to make these decisions at this time.”
It’s too early to say what will happen after that date, but some organizers of late summer and fall events are remaining hopeful.
Here is a running list of major Toronto events and festivals that have announced how they will proceed in 2021. We’ll update this list as more information becomes available.
Hot Docs Festival
After going virtual in 2020, the world’s largest documentary festival is aiming to do a hybrid event this spring. At this time, the festival plans to offer a mix of online streaming, live screenings and special events “in accordance with public health guidelines.”
April 29-May 9, hotdocs.ca
Toronto Marathon, Half Marathon, 5k, 10k and relay
Postponed to May 2022. All participants who had registered and had been deferred will now be automatically deferred to 2022. Organizers are holding a virtual edition in which you can run or walk the distance of your choice on a course that you design at a place that works for you.
Sporting Life 10k
The 21st annual race that fundraises for families affected by childhood cancer is also going virtual this year. “Run, jog or walk in your community or from the comfort of your home, all at your own pace,” organizers say. “Outdoor or indoor, it’s your choice.”
May 9-30, sportinglife10k.ca
Canadian Music Week
The multi-venue music fest is off, but online performances and the industry conference will be streaming. Keynote speakers include American music heavyweights Nile Rodgers, Timbaland and Dallas Austin. Folk legend Buffy Sainte-Marie will also introduce music off her new album Medicine Songs.
May 18-21, cmw.net
Doors Open Toronto
The city-run architecture festival typically happens in late May. It’s cancelled this year.
Canada’s biggest music awards show was scheduled to take place in Toronto to mark 50 years, but will now go virtual. The Junos will celebrate Buffy Sainte-Marie’s 80th birthday and present the Tragically Hip with a humanitarian award.
May 16, junoawards.ca
Ride for Heart
The Heart and Stroke Foundation’s annual fundraiser is pivoting online. Participants can sign up alone or in groups and ride, walk or run – in a heart-shaped route.
June 6, heartandstroke.ca
NXNE Music & Gaming Festival
This year’s in-person events are cancelled, but a virtual edition will take place instead. Details are TBD.
The multi-disciplinary arts festival will mark 15 years with a virtual edition. Organizers said in a statement they plan to “record, film, and stream our festival program. We are well-advanced on these plans at this stage and have adapted every project to this format, hiring experienced film directors and videographers to the team.”
Ride to Conquer Cancer
The annual cycling fundraiser is going virtual. Participants can register in one of four ride categories.
June 12-13, ride2conquer.ca
Toronto Jazz Festival
The music fest is planning a virtual edition. Details and dates are TBD.
Indigenous Arts Festival
The annual event that coincides with National Indigenous Peoples Day is going virtual. Details are TBD.
June 19-21, toronto.ca
The in-person marches and parade are going virtual for a second year, but Toronto Pride is teasing a “Phygital Festival” for its landmark 40th year. The city will proclaim June Pride Month and organizers have a full month of digital programming planned. There will be two festival weekends, and potentially small-scale physical events such as art installations or exhibitions, community pop-ups, and other collaborations with small venues.
June 18-19-20 and 25-27, prideotoronto.com
Toronto International Dragon Boat Race Festival
The in-person race is cancelled, but a virtual event is being planned. Details are TBD.
June 26-27, gwndragonboat.com
Scarborough Canada Day Parade & Celebration
This event is cancelled.
Canada Day Celebrations at Mel Lastman Square
This event is cancelled
Toronto Outdoor Art Fair
The 60th edition of the art fair has not announced how it will proceed but is drawing up contingency plans to go virtual if need be.
Toronto Fringe Festival
For the second consecutive year, the city’s biggest stage event is going strictly digital. “Fringe companies will present pre-recorded video, audio and written pieces for audiences to enjoy as part the Fringe On-Demand series,” organizers said in a statement. Read more here.
July 21-31, fringetoronto.com
Canadian National Exhibition
After cancelling last year’s fair and going virtual, organizers of the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) have said they are proceeding with plans for an in-person event. A rep told Global News the event is “keeping in mind that we are subject to public health guidelines and government stipulations.”
Late August, theex.com
Royal Agricultural Winter Fair
The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair plans to happen in-person at Exhibition Place. In a statement, the Royal’s board of directors said the annual fall event will “heed all regulations from the Ministry of Health to create a safe and secure environment.”
November 15-24, royalfair.org
Toronto Biennial of Art
The second edition of the sprawling art event is postponed from fall 2021 to spring 2022. As a result, the third edition will shift to 2024 in order to occur after two years. Organizers said the event requires too much advance in-person preparation and travel to happen safely this year. “The ability of artists to realize their projects as conceived in a shortened time frame was at risk,” they said.
March 26-June 5, 2022, torontobiennial.org