The Long Branch Tree Fest just had its biggest year in terms of exhibitors and attendees on Sunday, September 24.
Sponsored by the City of Toronto, the free tree program gave away close to two hundred native trees at the event hosted at Marie Curtis Park.
“We’ve planted more than 6,000 since we started this five years ago,” says Jenny Ribeiro from the Long Branch Neighbourhood Association (LBNA), responsible for organizing the event, “The Tree Fest is trying to educate everyone in the city to be a steward of nature, and we’re actively promoting advocacy on increasing Toronto’s tree canopy.”
Despite the serious nature of the topics being discussed, LBNA along with more than fifteen exhibitors, hoped to deliver a fun, family-friendly event.
Kids could enjoy recyclable art workshops and story time under a tree, while adults could venture deeper into the park for guided tree identification walks to better know their own neighbourhood’s ecosystem.
“We are here trying to connect and increase the traffic flow in our gardens,” says Nadia Stelmach from the Long Branch Garden Tour, ” I love growing my own food, I love preparing it and feeding people, so it’s also very spiritual to me.”
Garden tours have become more and more popular amongst residents of the Lakeshore community and Sheila Gregory says to take an initiative she simply stopped by Stelmach’s house and invited her to collaborate on this project, “And now we’ve been twice now Canada’s largest free garden tour.”
The duo, along with their group of volunteers, are motivated to keep changing their communities into more walkable, neighbourly places, “Where neighbours open their backyards, we get people talking about plants, pollinators, we get kids interested in what’s going on in our front yards,” says Gregory.
Stelmach says anyone is welcome to join as an observer and as an exhibitor for their garden tours, “…Because it’s their passion that counts.”
As people walked past their booth, they handed out flyers for their next event June 22, 2024.
“You can have multiple things or just one carrot growing on your front yard,” says Gregory, “As long as you’re getting the neighbourhood involved and connecting back to the Earth.”
To the sound of the Willow Tree Band, the festival wrapped up at around 4 P.M. having beat its own record of attendance.