Fiesta Week – The History Behind the Culture, Dancing, and Food!

It’s the week the City of Oshawa looks forward to all year…Fiesta Week!

Formerly known as Fanfare for Oshawa, the early beginnings of Fiesta Week can be traced back to a one night folk performance for Mother’s Day in 1961 organized by then president of the Oshawa Folk Arts Council Josephine Aldwinkle.  In 1972, the first week-long celebration of international cuisine and culture, the establishment of Fiesta Week, presented by the not-for-profit organization Oshawa Folks Arts Council. With each passing year, Fiesta Week organizers have stayed true to their mission of demonstrating Oshawa’s rich cultural mosaic.

Fiesta Week takes place annually during the third week of June and opens each year with a parade. Floats, marching bands, dancing groups and clowns follow the parade route through the city of Oshawa. Crowned the evening before at the Queen’s Court Ball, Miss Fiesta is a highlight of the parade. Awards are presented to those groups with the best ethnic group float, best community group float, and best overall float.  As the parade comes to a close at Memorial Park, a free Fiesta Week concert commences.

Oshawa and District Historical Society Fiesta Float, 1981
Oshawa and District Historical Society Fiesta Float, 1981

Through the remainder of the week, ethnic pavilions across the city open their doors to the public. Each pavilion requires a passport to enter, making each visitor feel like a true globe trotter.  Revelers can stop by the Caribbean Nights (Caribbean) pavilion for roti and patties, continue onto the Loreley (German) pavilion for schnitzel, sauerkraut, and sausage, and finished the evening with souvlaki and baklava at Acropolis (Greek). Other favourites include borscht and cabbage rolls at the Lviv and Dnipro/Odessa (Ukrainian) pavilion and lasagna and ravioli at the Roma (Italian) pavilion. The Budapest (Hungarian), Africa Pavilian, French-Canadian, and Krakow and Poznan (Polish) pavilions, among many others, also offer delectable treats.

Orchestrating a week-long festival is no small undertaking. The event organizers begin planning in January and February, providing 6 months to arrange the best possible Fiesta Week experience. Maintaining an event such as this on volunteer staff alone is a huge feat. With a lot of work to be done and only so many bodies to do the work, one major obstacle faced by coordinators of the event is limited event volunteers. Another hurdle is arranging for bands and entertainers that come from outside the Oshawa area. With increasing gas prices, it is more difficult for entertainers to travel to Oshawa from other areas of the GTA. Despite these challenges, Fiesta Week has occurred annually for over 30 years.

Be sure to visit for more information on this much anticipated community event!

6 thoughts on “Fiesta Week – The History Behind the Culture, Dancing, and Food!”

  1. I remember the first one in 1972 as if it were yesterday. Parents took me to see the Black Cat Pub, (British at the Oshawa armouries), the Hungarian, the German and one or two of the Polish ones before we went down to the big tent set up at Lakeview Park where they had calypso music and (devilishly hot to my untried tongue) Jamaican patties by the lake!

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