Fiesta Week cultural celebration kicks off with Sunday street party at Oshawa’s Memorial Park

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Published June 13, 2024 at 11:52 am

Oshawa Fiesta

To most residents and the visitors who make the annual pilgrimage to experience Oshawa’s annual multicultural extravaganza, Fiesta Week is a celebration of diverse cultures and communities, complete with dancing, music, colour and a banquet of delicious food.

To Stephanie Halenda-Arnett, Fiesta is tradition. Fiesta is family.

Halenda-Arnett’s family has been involved with the cultural celebration since its earliest days a half-century ago. Her mom Ola (Kisil) Halenda was the first Miss Lviv (1982) at the Lviv pavilion (one of two Ukrainian pavilions at Fiesta, reflecting the deep history of Ukrainian-Canadians in Oshawa) and taught Ukrainian dancing for many years.

Now Ola’s granddaughter Aria Arnett is this year’s Miss Mini Lviv 2024.

“It was my mom’s parents (my baba and dido) who supported it from the beginning. That’s where it all started,” said Halenda-Arnett, who danced for 15 years herself, with her young son Austin now a member of the troupe

Stephanie Halenda-Arnett (left) with her kids Austin and Aria. Miss Lviv (Christina Felker) with Mini Miss Lviv (Aria Arnett) on the top right.

Her mom (who married Richard Halenda, founder of a small chain of butcher shops) taught Ukrainian dancing for many years and the family began providing pryohy and cabbage rolls to the festival in its early years and now provides the meat for the pavilion every year.

The food is a big draw at Lviv and the other ten pavilions at this year’s Fiesta but it’s the dancing that brings in the crowds. “Each dancer has worked hard since September to bring a great show,” Halenda-Arnett said. “The energy is incredible.”

Fiesta, now in its 50th year, is a week-long event that brings together residents and visitors to experience a fusion of cultural traditions, music, food, and entertainment.

Fiesta Week showcases the multicultural fabric of the city, featuring performances by local artists, dance troupes and musicians representing various cultural backgrounds showcasing their cultural heritage.

Pyrohy (Ukrainian) or Pierogi (Polish)

The festival also offers a tantalizing array of culinary delights, from the aforementioned pryohy/pierogies and cabbage rolls to schnitzel, chicken roti, codfish cake and borscht and tantalizing desserts such as custard tarts, tiramisu and cannoli.

Cannoli

With a total of eleven vendors, Fiesta Week in Oshawa is not only a celebration of diversity but also a platform for fostering understanding, unity, and appreciation among all residents and visitors who make the trek to “embrace the multicultural essence of Oshawa.”

This year’s vendors include two Ukrainian pavilions – Lviv (38 Lviv Blvd) and Odessa (471 Simcoe St. S); two Polish pavilions – Polish (1551 Stevenson Rd. N) and Poznan (219 Olive Avenue); two Portuguese pavilions – Northern Portugal (40 Albany Street) and Portuguese (520 Simcoe St. S); as well as Club Carib (600 Wentworth St, E); Club Loreley Schnitzelhaus (389 Dean Avenue); Italian (245 Simcoe St. S), French-Canadian (384 Hillside Avenue); and Romanian (261 Bloor St. E).

This year, instead of the traditional parade, organizers have opted for a Fiesta Street Party at Memorial Park on Father’s Day (Sunday) to kick off the week-long event, with vendors, food trucks, buskers, entertainment and more.

The street party (noon to 6 p.m.) is free, with visitors encouraged to bring non-perishable food donations to the Durham Alliance Outreach booth during the event to help those in the community in need.

Fiesta Week is presented by the Oshawa Folk Arts Council and run by volunteers, from the cooks in the kitchen to the four-year-old dancing on the stage.

Passports (good for all pavilions) are $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors, with kids (under 13) free. Passports can be purchased at Sunday’s street party or at any of the participating pavilions.

All proceeds from Fiesta Week directly support local non-profit cultural organizations.

For a full list of the pavilion hours and showtimes, visit the Fiesta Week schedule page at https://oshawafiestaweek.ca/fiesta-week/

 

 

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