Thursday, December 31, 2009

Chillin at the Polar Bear Swim

My daughter and I will try to work up our courage to venture into the cold waters of Lake Ontario at the Habitat for Humanity Toronto's 2010 Polar Bear Swim. The dippers will enter the water at 12 noon on the first day of the new year - January 1, 2010, at Sunnyside Park.

Update: Ann of Green Gables joined Erin and I in the dip. We showed up early at Sunnyside Park to check out the location and arrangements for us Polar Bears. There are two parking lots on either side of the park, we chose the east lot and walked to Sunnyside Pavillion - they, of course, had set up on the west side of the building. We took some pictures of the beach and went back to keep warm in the car. Here we are pictured below.

At 11:30am we joined the crowds providing their forms and sponsorship money and we received our blue Toronto Polar Bear Dip bracelets and our Polar Bear Dip blankets and then we shivered in the cold and snow thinking about the upcoming dash into Lake Ontario.

They announced that the amount of swimmers was greater than anticipated and had run out of bracelets and blankets. In place of bracelets they wrote PB on peoples hands to show that the multitude of waivers had been signed and the sponsorship money collected. I think they had less than 100 people last year. The organizers provided time updates and with just less than 5 minutes left we began to strip off our clothes and everyone gathered in the roped off area.

We waited for the countdown and rush into the frigid water in the large crowd estimated at between 150 to 200 swimmers. There was no ice on the lake at this beach so it made the water a little safer (no chunks of icebergs) and probably a little warmer than in previous years.

Finally the countdown began and the mad push into the lake. I kept near the end so I didn't have to go to far out, because by the time you go a short distance they are already starting to come back in. The cold water numbs your body very fast and I can see how hypothermia can be so dangerous.

We braved the cold water to say we had done it, had a great adventure and helped raise money for charity. Media coverage of the event was pretty good and their were a number of interviews before and after the swim. Joe Fresh said he saw Erin and Ann on Global TV news.

After the swim there was quite a group protesting Canada's reaction to climate change and there were a number of people dressed in Polar Bear costumes, so there were some Polar Bears at the Polar Bear Dip!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Years in Toronto - Blue Moon

No, it doesn't mean flashing your ass in the cold, cold weather of Canada. Instead it signifies a month with two full moons. On the 31st of December, as this year and decade make way for another, there will be some party wolves howling at the full moon, much like that three wolves moon tee shirt.

In Toronto the CN Tower will have a special light show for the New Years Eve countdown and at Nathan Phillips Square there will be the CityTV New Years Eve Bash 2010 beginning at 9pm.

The event at City Hall will be hosted by Gord Martineau, Tracy Moore, Kevin Frankish and Dina Pugliese with a number of musical guests including "performances by Anjulie, Jarvis Church, Kardinal Offishall, Karl Wolf, The Mission District and the cast of Rock of Ages." (UPDATE: my previous list was so last year - thanks for the tip).

Getting home safely from the New Years Eve celebration can happen with the free TTC service which runs from midnite to 4am courtesy of the Toronto Entertainment Alliance.

The next day you can drop by City Hall and meet His Honour David Miller at the Mayor's New Years Day Levee from 11am to 12:30pm.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

2010 Wish List - Toronto Events

2009 has been a very good year for the Toronto Grand Prix Tourist Blog and I am looking forward to some returning and some new events for 2010. High on my list is to see the return of the Aids Committee of Toronto's (ACT) annual Fashion Cares event - which was sadly postponed in 2009. The fashion and glamour fundraiser is always spectactular (click on my photos on the right for coverage of the event. My videos on YouTube for Fashion Cares and the 2008 spooktacular have been viewed over 25,000 times - and includes this popular summary of the night while a Google search has my blog just below the official website) and I encourage people to support ACT and this event.

For more heavy hitters I hope to see the 2010 Honda Indy Toronto which plans a number of improvements over last year - including the addition of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series and tons more entertainment and hopefully more girls, girls, girls. As well the Luminato and Nuit Blanche Festivals will soon take over all of Toronto as they become more and more popular. And who could forget the Buskerfest as it fills the St. Lawrence Market area. I can also never get enough of the blood soaked, brain eating Zombies as their number continues to grow. I hope to cover more of the Toronto International Film Festival events and look forward to their continued success. Toronto has taken these amazing visual performances to heart and their success has made it difficult to see many of the events due to the size of the crowds, so look for my photographic coverage when you can't make it, or just want to remember the fun - just click my photo links to the right for pictures of previous celebrations.

Some of the smaller promotional activities also provide great opportunities for images - such as the mob of Blu-Ray Santas in Yonge-Dundas Square, so hopefully companies will step up their creative efforts this year.

It is always nice to be invited to unique and once in a lifetime events, such as my recent tour in the Olympic Flame Relay convoy and I am glad I was asked to find out about the movie Fandom which will use an exciting method of interactive filmaking right here in Toronto. So please keep thinking of me if you have something that you may want additional coverage on, just email me at

I will start a list of the events (not in any order) that I want to photograph and write about and will add to it when I find more. Let me know if you can suggest any additional ones that I have left out.

1. Fashion Cares.
2. Honda Indy Toronto. July 16 to 18, 2010.
3. Luminato. June 11 to 20, 2010.
4. Nuit Blanche. Saturday October 2, 2010.
5. Buskerfest. Sometime in August 2010?
6. Zombie Walk. Sometime in October 2010?
7. Toronto International Film Festival. Sometime in September 2010?
8. The Pride Week and parades. June 25 to July 4, 2010.
9. The movie: Fandom. 2010.
10. Joe Fresh has also identified the Toronto Roller Derby League as something that would be good to see.
11. Cirque Du Soleil: Alegria. June 30 to July 4, 2010.
12. Seeing Larysa Harapyn on television again and taking more pictures of the media host - a website with her name is currently under construction.
13. Caribana (a new one for me, thanks Not a Shopaholic). Monday July 14th to Sunday August 2nd, 2010. I heard the King and Queen show is a must see.

Join me in supporting local events and activities that make it such a positive experience to visit and live in the City of Toronto.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

More than gifts, more than giving, Christmas is really about family and friends. Happy Holidays and may all your travelling, whether by road, air or rail, be safe.

PS I got some cool stuff, thank you Santa.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Festive Lights

Tis the season to put up lights now, fa la la la la, it's Christmas time. Holiday decorations and window displays fill building lobbies and streets as Santa quickly approaches.

In the Yonge-Dundas Square there is a large tree made of big, silver balls. It looks much better at night time when it has big, bright, blue balls. I am not really sure what there message is but it is still visually interesting. Along Yonge Street there are lights strung across the road reminding me very much of the old computer game asteroids when your spaceship blows apart, only in Christmas colours of blue and orange?

A Blog in Toronto

When you pass a person in the street do you think that they are on the way to blog, to write down their latest thoughts on an online journal? With so many bloggers it is very possible. You might find bloggers next to you in a store or along the street. I noted in the Olympic Flame Relay post that we ran into a blogger named Christina that will make the journey to Vancouver to watch and write about the 2010 Winter Olympics. I have also met Rannie Turigan, or Photojunkie, who was a celebrated Toronto blogger and whose website, sadly, now sits "temporarily unavailable."

We are lucky to have a number of great bloggers in Toronto who I will visit online everyday. Some I have talked about before, like Torontoist and BlogTO (see my blog links on the side of this page) and some you discover from friends or your own searches on the net. I learned about Toronto Mike ( from a Google Alert on a Toronto Mike blog posting where they were talking about websites and readers were asked to "leave a comment telling me one other site you frequent on a regular basis." I was happy to see my blog listed with the comment "This is a cool blog from a Toronto photographer." Just after this my brother and fellow blogger also mentioned Toronto Mike to me.

As a blogger that has been around for a number of years taking pictures of Toronto and writing about events in Toronto you get to see your blog mentioned in a few places such as Redball: Toronto's site along with bloggers BlogTO and Torontoist and my photos are used by a number of websites including Climate Day. Go out and find your favourite bloggers and help spread the word to your friends.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cynthia Mulligan reporting for CityTV

We caught Cynthia Mulligan reporting on a Christmas shopping story in front of the Eaton Centre.

Update: Cynthia Mulligan was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2010, just a few short months after these pictures were taken, and is currently undergoing breast cancer treatment and blogging about her experiences at Her account is called "Kicking Cancer".

In one post, titled "New Perspective" she talks about coming upon a smashed out car window shortly after starting chemo and she realized that it was "completely irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, just another inconvenience". That is a good lesson for all of us and we wish Cynthia all the best in her fight.

Update 15 November 2016: my posts on Cynthia Mulligan have had a lot of traffic after comic and host Mike Bullard was charged with criminal harassment of the reporter. Mike left his Newstalk 1010 gig on October 5th after he was charged. He is reported to have said that he didn't stalk or harass Cynthia whom he dad dated in the past.

Light up Kensington Market

On December 21, 2009 the Winter Solstice occurs - which is the shortest day/longest night of the year, announcing the start of winter north of the equator (excuse my ignorance because I thought winter was already here). Longer daylight hours will follow the Solstice so it is a perfect day to celebrate. In the mighty burg of Toronto Red Pepper Spectacle Arts is holding the 20th Annual Kensington Market Festival of Lights.

Their website says "Red Pepper’s popular Kensington Festival of Lights attracts 10,000 people annually for a hand-made, commercial-free peoples celebration in Kensington and Alexandra Park on the Winter Solstice."

The Festival begins at 6:00pm at Oxford and Augusta. The celebration is interactive so they want you to bring lanterns, costumes, and bells and join in the fun in "Toronto's original Lantern procession!"

Tonite's weather is supposed to be partly cloudy with temperatures around -3 to -5 degrees Celcius so dress warmly for a couple hours out in the cold - remember, it's now winter! Here are a few pictures of the parade and the finale at the Park. You can also see some of the great parade on my video on YouTube.

The parade came into Alexandra Park at Dundas and Bathurst and finished in the ball diamond where a fire celebration was put on with flame blowers and flame jugglers putting on a show for the large crowd. After awhile the large center piece, which could have been a bra with wings - for that extra uplift, was set on fire. I'm pretty sure that means winter is now over.

UPDATE: A still picture from my parade video was used on a Kensington Market site with permission.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Art and the Olympic Flame Convoy

Before the Olympics, before the many competitions and before the athletes come together to battle for the gold, the Olympic Flame journeys from it's ancestral home in Greece to the 2010 Winter Olympics to be held in Vancouver, Canada starting on February 12, 2010. The long run is about half over with 55 days remaining until the opening ceremonies see the transfer of the relay's flame from the over 12,000 individual torches to the Olympic Cauldron in Vancouver, British Columbia. General Motors of Canada Olympic Flame Relay convoy co-manager Art Lewis, pictured above, smiles during my tour with the convoy.

The Olympic Flame Relay goes through over 1,000 communities and rather than start on the east coast of Canada and end in Vancouver this circular route started out West, headed up into the Artic, then over to the East and is now on it's westerly way to Vancouver.

National Corporate Sponsor General Motors of Canada provides the vehicles and technical know-how to keep the relay moving towards it's Vancouver destination. This massive undertaking needs about 110 vehicles and a team of eight, including fleet managers Art Lewis and Serge St. Louis. Art in his office on the road in the picture below.

Art and Serge alternate the fleet management duties on a two week on, two week off schedule of days which begin at 5am and run to midnight. Art was our gracious host during a weekend relay while partner Serge was home, on call and ready to return to work when Art has completed his current two week tour of duty.

We talk to Art about his experience in the convoy. The Nestleton (15 minutes east of Port Perry, Ontario) resident was handpicked by GM for this role, along with Serge, for their abilities to provide a seamless organization that keeps the massive army of vehicles on the road, supporting the flame on the way to it's final destination in Vancouver. While the days are long Art is energized by the large crowds out to catch a glimpse of the runners and the Olympic flame. He especially likes the weekday travel when many schools along the route let the children out of school to view the relay. Art also confirmed my experiences with the Olympic Flame crowds as they treated the relay runners similar to celebrities - taking photos of and with the runners.

Approximately 15 vehicles are in the actual flame relay include a couple of small buses which are tasked to pick up and drop off groups of runners at their designated spots, the sponsors large party trucks from Coca-Cola and RBC, a control van, a large media truck providing live coverage of the relay and many independent emergency police (local and RCMP) and ambulance vehicles. The balance of the fleet carries supplies and travels on different roads.

Servicing of the General Motors fleet occurs early in the morning or late into the night at local GM dealerships. The fuel efficient vehicles such as the Acadia and Traverse models are supplemented by a number of hybrid vehicles and diesel buses. Weather and vehicle performance have both been good. Art tells of a side mirror being taken off one of the big buses holding the sponsors performers by an animal contact, something which happens all to often in our province.

Here are a variety of interesting Olympic Flame Relay facts that I learned from Art.

-After British Columbia the vehicles were shipped by train to Montreal, then by motor carriers to St. John's for the return journey to Vancouver with the relay runners.
-The vehicles will be sold after the relay is finished.
-The relay was accompanied by elephants and cougar cubs in Bowmanville.
-After a runner has finished their 300m section they climb in the return bus, the gas is removed from the torch and it is then offered for sale to the runner.
-Lunch and dinner celebrations are parties organized ahead of time and feature entertainment, attractions and the lighting of a cauldron to keep the flame going. Power for the celebrations is provided by solar power. Special teams set up the stages and attractions in a couple of hours, later packing them away and heading to the next celebration site.
-When two runners come together and hug it is called a marriage (see picture at bottom of this post).
-Large orange stickers are placed on streetlights or other street furniture which shows where the next runner is to be placed to begin their relay. Each successive torch is lit from the previous torch, all originating from the flame which came from Greece.

While at an intersection I had the window down taking pictures when a fan asked if we were the people from GM? I told her that Art from GM was driving and she said that she was following them on the internet. Update: I found out that this is Christina and you can see her blog post of the events at Journey to Vancouver 2010-diary of a fan.

I do know that Art misses his wife and three dogs while on the road and he is also a new grandfather. Luckily the relay take a break on Christmas and Boxing Day so he looks forward the holidays at home. The vehicles also keep him too busy to see a lot of the celebrations that many Canadians are getting to see when the relay goes through their communities.

Here is a special morning celebration at the site of a major sponsor - Bell. A tractor trailer was set up with a artificial ski jump and a couple of trampolines. Olympic athletes performed several jumps and acrobatic moves. See my YouTube video.

A lantern with the Olympic flame is used to light the relay runner's torch.

With the torch lit the first runner is ready to begin the relay.

Thanks to Art Lewis and General Motors of Canada along with Michael Allison of the Wilcox Group for inviting me on this fantastic adventure.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Olympic Flame in Toronto

Crowds lined the streets of Toronto to watch the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Flame Relay pass through on the way to Vancouver. It is quite the operation keeping the flame on track, closing streets, and keeping the crowds under control. It certainly takes a lot of police including squad cars, police on bikes and even some police on horseback. In the photo above the relay runner enters Nathan Phillips Square surrounded by police, relay organizers and happy fans.

Up at York Mills I watched the transfer of the flame from one torch to another as it continued onto the World's longest road - Yonge Street, and headed south into the downtown core of Toronto.

A protest caused about an hour delay near Yonge-Dundas Square with a last minute change in route until finally the flames could be seen approaching Nathan Phillips Square. The people burst into cheers as the Olympic Medal winner in hockey - Vicky Sunohara turned into City Hall.

Sponsors were handing out some cool stuff like Coke's illuminated Coke bottle and aluminum bottles of their refreshing colas. RBC was distributing bins and bins of small blue tambourines.

There were plenty of media recording the event and I ran into CP24's gorgeous Ann Rohmer. UPDATE: Ann is leaving as host of CP24 Breakfast in mid-June 2010. She will remain on air for Animal Planet and also Animal House segments on CP24. It must have been hard to get up so early in the morning for so long but I did like to watch her on the show.

City Hall was packed with skaters, sponsors and people of all ages enjoying the spectacle of the Olympic Flame, the entertainment and the fireworks (see my YouTube video of the fireworks) which closed the show.

I will meet with the General Motors vehicle convoy, which supports the Olympic Flame Relay, this Saturday. It was great - see my blog post of the event here.

UPDATE: Feb 23, 2010, my flame photo is used on the Journalism Ethics website with permission.

Doors Open

Scarborough Bluffs





Lake Ontario

Nathan Phillips Square