On a hot day in July 1930, hundreds of Torontonians filled the sidewalks along Mount Pleasant Road, fanning themselves, swaying to the sounds of marching bands, and craning to get a better look at the parade. Mount Pleasant Road was filled with bikes and cars decorated to look their best, horses trotting by, children wearing fancy costumes, and dozens upon dozens of floats.
This was the North Toronto Parade, part of a mammoth three-day celebration.
North Toronto was annexed by the city in 1912, and it took a few years for the rest of the city to take notice of the new neighbourhood’s potential. North Toronto, and Mount Pleasant specifically, was a thriving community with many shops, schools, and beautiful homes. However, North Toronto still felt separate from the city it had recently become a part of and struggled to get Torontonians to venture north.
The North Toronto Business Men’s Club, made up of prominent citizens, was formed and made it their mission to drive homeowners and business owners up north. “Opportunity lies in North Toronto” they claimed, and devised a North Toronto celebration to prove it.
The first North Toronto Parade and celebrations took place in 1923 and was largely focused on Yonge street. Prominent businessmen entered their cars in the parade and drove up to the city limits while clowns ran along the side of the street, handing out balloons and candy. If the parade wasn’t enough of a draw, spectators could also enjoy a festival at Eglinton Park where the North Toronto Business Men’s Society organised a parasol parade and baby contest. For the older crowd, a “midnight frolic” at an Eglinton theatre which promised lively entertainment. The parade and accompanying celebrations were a success with thousands in attendance over the course of three weekdays in July.
By 1930, Mount Pleasant Road was part of the parade route, with over 250 floats winding from Moore Avenue up past Lawrence Avenue. Neighbourhood children were heavily involved in these exuberant celebrations. The 1936 parade included two categories for children to enter: costumes and pets. Children proudly walked along the route dressed as storybook characters, walking their pets or pushing them in decorated prams. The winner for the pet category that year was 10 year old Carolyn Malgrove, who lived on nearby Hillsdale Avenue. She dressed up as Old Mother Hubbard and carted along a cupboard and her dog, Binky.
The North Toronto Business Men’s Association planned to hold the parade and festivities in 1939, but plans fell through likely due to the looming World War which began in September of that same year. Business Men’s Associations across Toronto turned their attention towards raising funds for the war effort and away from elaborate celebrations.
Mount Pleasant Village continues to play host to community gatherings and festivals, with a Harvest Fair hosted by Mount Pleasant Village BIA every fall. Much like the North Toronto parade of the past, the festival is a huge hit with families in the neighbourhood and around the city.