Could Toronto be a National Park City? Learnings from London UK

Toronto calls itself “A City Within a Park,” but Daniel Raven-Ellison has taken the concept much, much further. For the past five years he’s actively campaigned to have London, UK declared a National Park City .

“The idea of a national park city is inspiring. It’s a vision that so many people can share and contribute to in their own way,” says Ellison.

On Tuesday, March 19 Park People and Parks Canada will host Daniel Raven-Ellison for a public talk at the YMCA Auditorium on Grosvenor. The talk will focus on his National Park City project and what he’s achieved through his campaign and what’s possible when people living in cities embrace their connection to the natural world.

In 2012 Raven-Ellison, a former geography teacher, walked 1,686 km across all of the UK’s national parks and cities. That’s when the idea for a national park city was born. The goal of the designation is to ultimately change how people think about parks that exist within urban environments, and to help London become 50% green space.

Forging a stronger relationship between people and nature, Daniel Raven-Ellison argues, will improve not only the health of 14,000 species that call London home, but also help build human resilience in the face of climate change.

Raven-Ellison believes that any city could be a National Park City, as long as it has a strong civic society and regional government that is actively doing everything it can to make the city greener, healthier, and wilder.

Could Toronto be a National Park City? We hope you’ll attend this inspiring event cohosted by Park People and Rouge National Urban Park (Parks Canada) and come away with a new view of what’s possible for a city like Toronto.

Learn More:

Learn more about Daniel

Learn more about London National Park City

Learn more about bringing the National Park City movement to more cities

You don’t need to celebrate halloween to love pumpkin parades

North York’s Shoreham Walkway is a diverse neighbourhood where Halloween just isn’t a “thing.” It’s a diverse community where everyone respects everyone else’s holidays. Some celebrate Dwali, others Easter, but very few celebrate Halloween. Clara Stewart Robertson, from Toronto’s Green Change, a Jane/Finch Centre satellite space that connects people to places and nature, brought a Pumpkin Parade to her neighbourhood. And in her neighbourhood Pumpkin Parades thrived, even without Halloween.

Many of the newcomers in North York neighbourhood where Stewart Robertson works aren’t really “into” Halloween. The tradition of spending discretionary income on store bought costumes and buying candy, not to mention the holiday’s associations with witchcraft, get in the way of it really taking off in the low income community.

But, regardless of people’s feelings about Halloween, Stewart Robertson knew that pumpkin carving would be irresistible to kids in the neighbourhood, and could be used as a good tactic to lure parents into the park to build a relationship to their green space.

Green Change connected to their local Boys and Girls Club and organized a pumpkin carving party in the park where over 100 pumpkins were carved in a single night. Afterwards, parents were invited to walk around and soak up the creativity. Here’s how they made it happen for a community that was less than familiar with Halloween traditions:

Donated Pumpkins:

All of the pumpkins for the community carving session were donated by a local farm. The donation helped offset the costs and having them delivered directly to the park made transportation a non-issue. Many people in the neighbourhood rely on public transit and walking to get around. This makes purchasing a pumpkin highly impractical. “Can you imagine walking home from the grocery store with a pumpkin?” asks Stewart Robertson. Good point.

Animate the space:

In addition to having a very busy pumpkin carving station where kids could work on their pumpkin carving, the organizers set up two other game stations to keep kids busy while they excitedly waited for their turn to carve. Also, they served up hot chocolate and pizza to keep people’s spirits up.

Get Goopy:

“The kids particularly love getting messy because it’s not something they get to do often,” says Stewart Robertson, who notes that many of the kids showed up in their school uniforms. Of course, some kids cower at the idea of sticking their hands inside a dank, messy pumpkin the first time, but if you put kids in pairs, not everyone needs to go elbow deep in the pumpkin guts.

Frame it within the Harvest:

Even if Halloween isn’t popular in your community, there are often harvest festivals that happen in the fall when other key goodies like tomatoes and corn are at their peak. Don’t worry about skipping the whole Halloween “spooky” tradition and going straight to the joyful pumpkins. After all, any holiday can be a reason to celebrate.


Ottawa spreads Pumpkin Parade celebrations

The Toronto born tradition of Pumpkin Parades have taken on a life of their own as whispers about the phenomenon have spread across the country. We spoke with Anita Grace, who brought the parades to Ottawa to get the scoop on what it’s been like bringing the Halloween after-party to her city.

 Getting started

“I wasn’t that plugged into local parks until I had kids,” Grace says. “It was because of my kids that I started hanging out in parks, getting to know families in the area and then gradually getting involved with organizing little community park events.”

When a friend shared a story about the large and successful Pumpkin Parade in Toronto’s Sorauren Park, Grace was suddenly inspired to bring the annual event to her own Ottawa park.

She held her first pumpkin parade that same year, and now, nearly five years later, the Pumpkin Parade has become a much-anticipated annual event within her neighbourhood. She has learned important lessons from year to year and put that knowledge to good use to ensure that yearly, each parade has been bigger and better than the last.

“It started out small,” Grace tells us. That first year, the parade was held at Iona Park and there were about 25 pumpkins on display.  In the parade’s second year, Grace thought she would take her chances in a busier area and moved the event to Byron Park. Byron Park is located along an old tramline that was converted into a pathway with greenspace around it. “It’s a totally accessible space with a multi-use path that a lot of people use,” Grace tells us, “hosting the parade there was really good for publicity. That second year we got close to a hundred pumpkins and people who hadn’t even heard about the event just kind of stumbled on the display as they were taking their dogs out or casually walking.”

What a pleasant surprise!

Value to the Community

 Grace says that she started running with this project more or less on her own, but that she has been overwhelmed by the positive response from the community. “I maybe have been the impetus behind these events, but the community has really taken ownership. If it was just me, there would only be my family’s four pumpkins out there, last year there were about 300,” Grace says. People show up to the parade one year and then come back the next year with more family, friends and neighbours.

The Pumpkin Parade has played an useful political role in recent years as developers have proposed projects in the area that threaten the greenspace at Byron Park. “The community has come out to be pretty vocal about wanting to hang on to this space as it is,” Grace says, “by hosting events like this at Byron Park along the pathway, we are drawing attention to this as a highly valued and utilized community space.”


Learn as you go

 Grace admits that, early on, there were issues with the pumpkin mess that followed the parade. “There’s a hill not too far from one section of the path, kids were rolling pumpkins down the hill and smashing them,” she says. She didn’t let this get her down though. “It’s not malicious, it’s just kids having fun. Sometimes there’s just something about a pumpkin that make it irresistibly kickable,” she tells us light heartedly. To  address this issue, Grace simply reached out to the community via social media asking people who were going to be in the area to keep an eye on things. A very Jane Jacobs approach indeed.

Grace says that social media and local media have been tremendously useful tools in spreading the word and gaining support for the parade. She has made event pages on Facebook and uses Twitter to connect with local community organizations and associations who have re-tweeted her posts to spread the word. Stories have run about the Byron Park Pumpkin Parades in the local Kitchissippi times and also on CBC Radio which spread awareness of the event to new and different audiences.

She has had a lot of success in putting information up on local schools’ announcement boards and leveraging different school and parent networks.

Grace says that she got in touch with her local councilor quite early on. “Having his support has been really helpful,” she says. “I also think it’s really important to foster a good relationship with the city. They have been really great about sorting out permits and helping with the clean-up,” she says.

Volunteer support

Five years on, Grace is finally ready to recruit some volunteers. “I have approached the city councilor to see if we can write off volunteer hours for some high school students,” she says.

I was surprised to learn that until this point, she hasn’t had any designated volunteers or partnerships. “I have sort of been doing it on my own, but it has been amazing to see how many people have stepped forward to help out,” she says. Grace tells us that she has been continually surprised how many people, often whom she doesn’t even know, have seen what she’s doing in passing asked if they can help. “People have really taken ownership of this, and the fact that so many people come out and bring their pumpkins and help get them lit and then hang around and come back the next morning to help pick up all the soggy pumpkins…it’s pretty incredible. It really is a community thing.”

Pumpkin Parade Founder gets to the core of her love of pumpkins

Yes, Pumpkin Parades are a Toronto-born cultural phenomenon. But, do you know the woman behind this great tradition? We sat down with the mastermind behind the 12 years and continuing Pumpkin Parade at Sorauren Park, Colleen Kennedy. And, it turns out that for her, as fabulous though the parades are, they are a happy by-product of what she considers their ultimate benefit- getting people to express their own, inner creativity.

Colleen is a special education assistant with a passion for textile art, photography and all things creative. When her children were small, Colleen would organize a special pumpkin carving night the evening before Halloween. That night, their family would stay in, order pizza and carve their own jack-o-lantern. Even though her kids have now grown, the sculpting of the pumpkins continues to be a treasured tradition for the family.

The idea for Pumpkin Parades came to Kennedy when her husband, Mark, came back from a trip to Nanaimo B.C. “He described to me their pumpkin event held the day after Hallowe’en where people put their lit jack-o-lanterns on fence posts all along a country road,” she says. Inspired by the notion of a darkened space filled with the golden glow of beaming jack-o-lanterns moved them to initiate the first parade solely with the neighbours on her street.


Colleen feels that each jack-o-lantern is a personal piece of art and an expression of individual creativity. However, in the bustle of Halloween night, the jack-o-lantern on the porch sometimes gets overlooked.  Now with the pumpkin parade on the night after Hallowe’en, each pumpkin gets its own chance to shine.

“I think it’s important for us as human beings to create,” Colleen tells us. “Increasingly in our modern culture, people are spending their days with their eyes glued to a screen.  Crafts and Arts in general, bring us back to active hands-on processes.  There’s nothing like the feeling of satisfaction you get when you’ve finished designing and creating your pumpkin.”


It’s true.  In our daily lives, we have fewer and fewer opportunities to partake in creative activities that nourish us. We know that complex creative activities, like pumpkin carving, are good for you.  Recent studies have shown that these kinds of activities can help to alleviate symptoms of stress and depression and give us a general feel good buzz.

Kennedy says that sharing the creativity of carving pumpkins and displaying them collectively with others, “really builds an atmosphere of community and togetherness.”

In the spirit of giving people a safe and inviting environment to showcase their work, Kennedy has tried to keep her parade at Sorauren Park as grassroots, uncommercial and uncompetitive as possible. She doesn’t want anyone to feel their creativity is being judged. People come out to the parade to show off their creations and to marvel at what other people have created. It’s not about being the best of the most extravagant.


At their gooey, pulpy core, Pumpkin Parades are a celebration of creativity, self-expression and community. Here are Colleen’s tips for making the most out of the pumpkin carving experience:

Set aside family time.

Make carving a special occasion for the whole family to sit together and work on their individual crafts. When people are creating together and relaxed and at ease, the conversation tends to flow more easily. Try not to resort to the internet to get ideas for images and designs. Just draw a few ideas of your own on paper and then pick the one you like.

Make it accessible to everyone.

Very young kids may not be able to carve intricate designs, but they can be creative. Whether they decide to draw on their pumpkin, stick on glittery stickers, everyone should get in the act. Remember, some seniors may have mobility issues that may make traditional carving a bit tricky.

No judging.

There’s no such thing as a good or bad pumpkin design, just overly judgey people. Put aside judgement (even of yourself!) and let creativity rule.

Get messy.

In our daily lives we tend to be so tidy! Carving pumpkins is a chance to get your hands dirty and make a mess. Lay out the old newspapers and get in there and have some fun.

Pumpkin Parades: What you need to know for 2018

Pumpkin Parade season is upon us. Last year, there were 47 Pumpkin Parades held in parks in every corner of the city. Whether you’re hosting a parade for the first time, or you’re a seasoned pro, there are a few important things to know about planning your parade in Toronto parks this year. The deadline to apply to host a Pumpkin Parade is October 12, so don’t delay!

Pumpkin Parade permits during election period:

Due to the elections, the application process for Pumpkin Parades is different because Councillors cannot sponsor the community event.

The permit fee is waived for not-for-profits and community groups. Unless the not-for-profit or community group has insurance, the fee for insurance is:

*The City will require this information to determine the size of bin needed. 

For Insurance, you must submit proof of third party liability insurance, naming the City of Toronto as an additional insured, in the amount of $2,000,000.

BIA and others would have to pay a permit fee of $99.91. Insurance would be free because it is assumed that the BIA and others have insurance.

Pumpkin Parade application:

The deadline to apply is October 12, 2018. You can call Paula Simms (416-338-3940) or Carol Lord (416-397-9982) or go to the City of Toronto website and request the application package. They will only give out one pumpkin parade permit per park.

You will have to submit:

A water fight to bring a community together

“A declaration has been made! East has been challenged by the West to an all-out water fight on Canada Day. Bring your buckets and your water guns and all of the neighbours that you can gather!”

This brazen challenge to a water fight was issued. It was the grand finale for Calgary’s Crescent Heights community’s two-month long Village Days Festival and marked the beginning of new possibilities for this community. A water battle might seem like a surprising way to bring people together, but this unique water fight, supported through a TD Park People grant, is a great, and playful way to build social connections. As we highlighted in our 2018 Park Summit, where play was the focus, being silly and whimsical opens people up and openness is the basis for building new relationships.

crescent heights water fight


Why a water fight?

Crescent Heights is a diverse community with some marked socio-economic differences that divide the neighbourhood. One half of the Crescent Heights community is quite affluent while the other half is more mixed to low-income. Crescent Heights Community Association (CHCA) dreamed up the idea of an epic water fight as a means of bringing the community together, not just geographically, but also socially and culturally.  Kevin Jesuino, the engagement coordinator at CHCA, thought a water fight was the right concept for the challenge at hand since:

“Play is a great way to bring people together and we were trying to tackle some of the social issues that we have in our neighbourhood in a cheeky and playful way”

Just to give you an idea of the degree of playfulness, the group invited Kathleen Ganley, the Minister of Justice for the Alberta government, to share the rules of the water fight, a detail which Jesuino says “was totally fun.” Along with the usual instructions about no squirting before the whistle and no head or face shots, one of the most important rules of the day was that this was to be a “leave no trace event.” People were asked to bring their own re-useable water-weaponry (no water balloons that would leave pesky bits of rubber in the grass) and everyone was expected to do their part afterwards in cleaning up the park.

A learning opportunity

The water fight about fun and community engagement. It marked the start of a very important conversation about equity and inclusion. The goal was to use laughter and play to break down barriers and overcome perceived differences. The event also highlighted our shared connection to the land and water as limited natural resources. In the future, Jesuino says they would like to press this point even further. “We want to recognize that we are using this resource (water) that comes from the land, and yes, we are going to have A LOT of fun, but we want to take a moment to make sure that everyone is aware of what we are doing and show that we honour and respect nature and the environment.”

So, who won?

Jesuino laughs when we ask him about which side of the water fight came out victorious.

“It was just wild, everybody wins!” he says, “how do you decide who wins a water fight, anyways? In the end, we were all equally soaked!”

The organizers framed this event as a competition between the East and West sides of the Crescent Heights community, but the real point was to celebrate that they are all part of the same diverse and vibrant community. The group dispersed sopping wet and shivering but smiling from ear to ear. It was such a success that the community wants to make it an annual event. It sounds like another water fight challenge just might be in the works.





An Elaborate Show and Tell: Learning from Marpole’s Seniors Skills Bank

In 2013, Marpole Oakridge Family Place, a Vancouver agency that primarily supports children’s literacy, was asked to step up when the Marpole Place Neighbourhood House, known as the community’s “living room” for local seniors, flooded and was rendered unusable. MOFP rose to the challenge and, with few resources, has created a valuable Seniors Skills Bank.

The Seniors Skills Bank is a way for the community to learn about its seniors and their skills so that those skills can be used to benefit the entire community. In the process, seniors have a chance to contribute and feel recognized for their knowledge and experience. Andrea Krombein, the Seniors Outreach Coordinator at MOFP, roots her community development work in the belief that “information should be available and accessible to everyone.” Andrea has been working with seniors to identify their skills and build a database. She wanted to take the concept to the community and was able to secure a TD Park People Grant to host a Seniors Skills Bank this year at her community’s annual Everything Marpole Festival.

As a way of testing the concept, Andrea invited seniors to host booths which were set up along the event route. The demonstrations were led by artist and teacher, Lynn Onely, who taught watercolour painting; Alice Ng, who taught cupcake decorating; artist and exhibitor Billy Morton, a talented painter and Shichun Li, a retired professor who uses storytelling and folklore to teach people how to master the Rubik’s Cube. All day long, people walked up to the booths and learned a new skill from one of the many talented seniors in the community. It was a busy and exhausting day, but the concept was a winner.

“This is a cost-effective way that residents, some of whom are very low income, can actually connect with each other and also resource the neighbourhood,” Krombein says.

A TD Park People Grant helped Marpole Oakridge Family Place test out the idea of a Seniors Skills Bank, and now, Andrea is more energized than ever to build a database that can provide value to the whole community.

 Cultivating a culture of teaching and learning

  “The whole project is kind of a very elaborate show and tell, ”Krombein says

Krombein is actively building a database which will feature a wide range of identified skills local seniors possess from creative pursuits like watercolour painting through to practical skills like driving and cooking. The Skills Bank also includes seniors with more niche interests like whiskey tastings and mastering the Rubik’s Cube.  By collecting this information, Andrea has a vision of establishing a vast skill-sharing network that will benefit the entire community. The Skills Bank will not only help seniors interact with one another, but will also facilitate seniors demonstrating their experience and knowledge to the community at large.


Shichun Li, a retired professor who uses storytelling and folk-lore to teach people how to master the Rubik’s Cube.

Self-empowerment and confidence


Billy Morton, Showing off his painting skills at the Seniors Skills Bank

 We live in a rapidly growing and changing world and without adequate opportunities for people to connect and engage, it can be very easy for people to feel like they have been left behind. Loneliness and social isolation are issues that need to be addressed for the senior members of our communities who often feel alienated, undervalued and alone. Andrea says that early on some seniors didn’t feel they had any experience worth sharing, but following the example of some of their bolder peers, more and more people gradually came forward.

“Some of the group members were a bit shy to begin with, sort of reticent and nervous, but once they saw that other people were teaching about things that were important to them, they wanted to contribute something as well.”

Creating a virtuous circle


Alice Ng’s decorated cupcakes

Krombein says that she was absolutely delighted to learn that some of the seniors have moved beyond the Seniors Skills Bank to organize outings and programming on their own. “I’m always happy when they start to take it on for themselves,” she says. Shichun Li, has taken his Rubiks Cube lessons to local schools, helping others acquire math skills through play and keeping himself active and meaningfully engaged.

The Seniors Skills Bank pilot project demonstrates the power behind the idea. By stepping forward to showcase their skills, the seniors gain confidence in their abilities and build social connections. In that context, they are more willing to try new things. As their confidence grows, they become more active in their communities and more willing to participate and contribute. “It is evident to me that the magic formula is setting up places where people can learn, share and connect,” Krombein says.

The Seniors Bank highlights what indeed is possible when this virtuous circle is set in motion.






Park Summit 2018: A Serious Look at Play

Ralph Waldo Emerson got it right when he said: “It’s a happy talent to know how to play.” This year’s Park Summit presenters have this talent nailed down. Each has a unique ability to cultivate playfulness among targeted audiences to reach particular goals.

Yes, it can feel odd to speak so seriously about play, but creating intentional outcomes using play requires serious planning and consideration.  As speakers from both Montreal and Toronto demonstrated, it’s critical to determine what you want to achieve through play to deploy it most effectively. The presentations our Park Summit speakers shared offer many lessons for those of us trying to figure out how to use play to create impact-both among park and public space users and the key stakeholders who make decisions about how space does, and does not, get used.


The act of seduction

Marie-Hélène Roch, Founding Member of Ruelle No 13 project, a white laneway in Montreal’s Villeray neighbourhood, spoke about creating a space that entices people to play during cold winter months. She said:

“Together we’re trying to create a cocoon that’s conducive to gathering.”

Sometimes the snowy laneway is a cocoon formed of active play like hockey or fort-building, and other times it’s a cocoon of warm, delicious food that seduces people to leave their living rooms and come outside to break bread.


Marie-Hélène highlighted the seductive powers of food in particular when discussing Ruelle No 13 project’s participation in Restaurant Day, a worldwide festival of people organizing their own pop up food events in shared spaces. Bringing Restaurant Day to the snowy laneway helped Ruelle No 13 lure people into the space to enjoy the benefits of gathering together and experiencing new possibilities for their shared, underused space.


Be present for play

Janelle, from Green Change at Toronto’s Jane-Finch Community Centre, has her own take on what it takes to entice people to play together. In short, Janelle’s strategy is: just keep showing up. When Janelle was trying to activate Oakdale Park, a large, but underused park in the Jane-Finch neighbourhood, she made a point of being consistently present in the park. Being in the park, day in and day out, allowed people in the neighbourhood to get to know Janelle, and eventually engage in conversations and build trust.

Gradually, Janelle was able to connect with neighbourhood kids who had a vested interest in the park’s success. The kids collectively worked on securing a shade structure for their park. With Janelle’s guidance, the kids collected data, built prototypes and spoke to the local City Councillor to advocate for the shade structure. Spoiler alert: they got it!!

Copy of NVS_4593

Janelle treats children like “park royalty” because they know their park and understand its inner workings more than we ever give them credit for. This approach to kids allows Janelle to tap-into their wisdom, energy and unique perspective, and harness it to make the park better for the entire community.


Building home through p

Lisa Dietrich, a volunteer with CultureLink’s NEATWalks (Newcomers Explore and Appreciate Toronto) program, focused on the importance of active engagement in public spaces to build a sense of belonging among newcomers. As Lisa said:

As soon as we physically engage with –maybe even shape– our environment, it changes our relationship with this space. Active engagement creates a sense of control over our environment. And with this control comes a sense of security, of ownership, of belonging.

As Lisa emphasized, “active engagement” can be as simple as throwing rocks or as complex as an organized scavenger hunt. These experiences help build newcomers’ relationship to a new geography and establish a new sense of home.


Making the pitch for play

Caroline Magar, Development Coordinator at Montreal’s Les Amis du Champs des Possibles, had advice on how park groups can “play well with others.” In particular, Caroline’s presentation underscored the importance of understanding how to influence stakeholders and build a shared vision of a public space.


Les Amis du Champ des Possibles has transformed a Montreal rail line into a semi-wild place where people can experience nature in a high-density neighbourhood. However, historical contamination has limited the groups ability to host formal events in the space.

Caroline has taken it upon herself to become an expert on contamination issues and how to remediate the land in order to have credibility among key stakeholders and make informed decisions about the land’s future. Embracing the more scientific and technical dimensions of the project has been a tremendous help in turning an unusual and inspiring space into a public place where people can safely experience the wild.


Help people see themselves in play


Finally, in her keynote presentation, Mouna Andraos, co-founder of design studio daily tous les jours, shared how her projects deliberately diverge from conventional ideas of play in order to appeal to audiences who may otherwise be reluctant to join in the fun.

In fact, Mouna specifically took aim at the word ‘play’ because it’s a term that is generally associated with children. In her experience, the term can undermine the seriousness of creative endeavours, like those of her firm. The large, public installations that Mouna and her team create using cutting edge technology in public spaces utilize unexpected adult colours and are situated in public places not generally associated with play. These interactive installations are able to seduce adult audiences because they are unlike other objects we conventionally associate with play.

For example, one of the firm’s installations, entitled Hello Trees!, invites people walking along a busy promenade to stop and send a message to nature that is then translated into beautiful sound and light patterns travelling along arches that connect the trees above, providing a canopy for participants below.  As explained on their website:

The result is an immersive, light animated, crowd-sourced concerto. It is a poetic exercise that encourages slowing down and engaging all the senses with the nature that surrounds us.


Hello trees! from Daily tous les jours on Vimeo.

Mouna’s presentation highlighted that creating new ways to play requires having systems in place that support creative exploration and collaboration. She specifically pointed to the Quartier des Spectacles district in Montreal, which created a centralized permitting department to provide a one-stop-shop for artists, park groups and community groups to secure the permits and permissions necessary to activate the space. The simplicity of this model allows groups who may not otherwise be willing or able to go through multiple bureaucratic processes to bring their vision to life.


All in all it was an awesome Park Summit. Thank you to the 400+ people who attended and who work diligently to activate the power of parks in Toronto, Montreal, and across Canada. Also, thanks to the many presenters and our moderator Christina Hug, who made us look so good.

A very special thank you is owed to our Presenting Sponsor, TD Bank Group, who has supported the Park Summit from the start and makes it possible for us to host this incredible event.


You can access available presentations and relevant media below:

Thank you to the Park Summit Presenting Sponsor


Thank you to our Sparking Change supporters for helping underserved park groups attend the Park Summit



TD Park People Grants Provide Support for Park Events Across Canada

Parks that bustle with activity have an energy you can feel. Busy, animated parks help make people happier, communities more connected and make cities thrive. But how do you create a lively city park? Park groups create awesome events that help people discover the potential of parks. Movie nights, park cleanups and festivals often provide people with a first glimpse of what’s possible for their park. However, park groups have repeatedly told us that there are few resources available to support the park events that make such an important impact.

Park People community event

That’s why Park People and TD Bank Group are thrilled to announce the new TD Park People Grants program which will provide essential funding to support park group events in parks and green spaces in cities including Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. TD is providing funding as part of their TD Common Ground Project, which is dedicated to creating a legacy of healthy, vibrant and inclusive green spaces across CanadaPark groups are encouraged to apply to receive a $2,000 grant to host three events in their local parks between Earth Day (April 22) and New Year’s Eve 2018. Park People has put together park event ideas on topics to inspire groups to host events like movie nights, nature walks, pumpkin parades or an end of school party. See the TD Park People Grants program to learn more and apply.  Applications are due March 5, 2018.

A huge thanks to TD Bank Group for being our partners in bringing these events to Canada’s city parks.


Insider Tips to Make Your Pumpkin Parade Shine


November 1st is fast approaching and we want to make sure your Pumpkin Parade really shines. This made-in-Toronto phenomenon is now 13 years strong (nod to awesome Friends of Sorauren Park). Permit applications are due to the City of Toronto, Parks Forestry and Recreation on Oct 13, and permits are free for not-for-profit groups or community groups (insurance fees may apply.)

We’ve got the inside track from community park groups who’ve have been around the pumpkin patch a few times to help guide you in planning your upcoming Pumpkin Parade. 

What time should pumpkin drop off begin?

Community members tend to start dropping off jack-o-lanterns earlier than you might expect. For some, the after-school period is just the most convenient time to get it done. Our park group experts advise that volunteers be on-site starting at 3:30 to help early-birds get the route started and to avoid anyone from interfering with pumpkins before the parade. In short, be sure to let people know what time to begin their drop-off, and then plan to arrive to greet early-birds.


The Jack-o-Lanterns that started it all at Sourauren Park’s Pumpkin Parade

What time does the pumpkin parade start and end?

On Nov 1, the sun sets at around 6:00 pm so don’t start before then. You don’t need to advertise an end time for the parade, but you do need a plan to get the pumpkins into the compost bins the City provides for all Pumpkin Parades.  Will you clean up the park the night of the Parade or the next morning? Either way, you’ll need lots of volunteers with wheelbarrows and wagons to efficiently move the pumpkins from the ground to the compost bin and to remove all of the candles from the jack-o-lanterns. Make sure to let people know what to bring and what time to gather.  Having enough volunteers is key since you’ll need to manage park clean up.

BONUS IDEA: Make your pumpkin clean-up fun by splitting your clean-up crew into teams and setting up a pumpkin toss competition. You can allot points for presentation, follow-through, and speed. The prize doesn’t have to be more than bragging rights.

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Withrow Park Pumpkin Parade

What do we need to have on-hand?

The beauty of Pumpkin Parades is their simplicity. Don’t feel like you need to add-on bells and whistles to jazz up your Parade. But,  you do need a little light to make the magic happen. Even if people are asked to bring their own candles (be sure to mention if you want this in your promotions), it’s wise to have lots of extra tea lights and barbeque lighters on hand. Assign volunteers to walk around with barbeque lighters to keep jack-o-lanterns shining all night long. You can invite local businesses like coffee shops to stay open later to sell cider, coffee, and hot chocolate. That way, you can avoid permitting issues around food in the park. 

TD PB - Oakridge Park Pumpkin Parade (1)

Oakridge Park Pumpkin Parade

How do we plan the best path?

Many parks have a pathway that is the obvious choice for the parade. If your park isn’t one of these, take a walk through the park and consider the most accessible way to display the jack-o-lanterns. Remember, some people want to get up close for photos, so don’t place them out of reach. Consider the easiest path for strollers and wheelchairs and don’t position the path on a hill that might be difficult for some people to travel along. Alison, from Mimico By the Lake BIA suggests clustering school pumpkins together to make it easy for younger children to find and show off their creations. 

Who knows?

Once you’ve made some decisions, don’t forget to spread the word. Some insider tips on advertising include providing classroom-sized bundles of pre copied flyers for schools to hand out (talk to parent council or the school Principal first) and having one or two families distribute small flyers in trick-or-treat bags. Printing costs can be offset if you have a good relationship with a local business and provide some sponsor recognition for the extra support. Also, be sure to add Parks, Forestry and Recreation and Park People as co-hosts on your Facebook event to help get the word out beyond your own networks. Both PFR and Park People will help circulate news about your Parade. 


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