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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Popular farm near Toronto closes its pumpkin patch for the first time in 30 years

A farm near Toronto is closing their front lawn pumpkin patch for the rest of the season for the first time in over 30 years. 

Downey's Farm has been well known as a great fall getaway less than an hour's drive from Toronto where you can pick out a prime pumpkin, but the iconic location will be a little different this year. Their front lawn patch won't be filled with pumpkins, and they cancelled their annual Pumpkinfest.

In light of today’s announcement by Premier Doug Ford, re-enacting restrictions throughout Peel Region, we have made the difficult decision to remove our front lawn Pumpkin Patch for the remainder of this fall season. We have worked hard to keep the tradition alive this year as pumpkins have been on the front lawn every fall since 1986. Pumpkins will still be available for purchase every day until October 31st. Our Barn Market store is open daily from 9am to 5pm. We ask that you please limit the number of people from your household visiting the store. Our Farmyard Play Area remains open with limited capacity. Tickets must be purchased online prior to visiting the farm. The Farmyard Play Area is completely sold out until Tuesday, October 13th and we will not be releasing anymore tickets until the middle of next week. Thank you for your support and understanding. #staysafe #downeysfarm #caledon #pumpkins

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"We have made the difficult decision to remove our front lawn Pumpkin Patch for the remainder of this fall season," reads an announcement Downey's made on social media. "We have worked hard to keep the tradition alive this year as pumpkins have been on the front lawn every fall since 1986."

The lawn is normally the site of numerous fall selfies and family portraits, so if you didn't get a chance to take pictures in the magical orange field yet this season you'll have to wait until next year.

"Since 1986, we have placed our pumpkins, one by one and by hand, on our front lawn. Each year, there are over 10,000 pumpkins that create 'The Sea of Orange'. These pumpkins have become a staple in family photo albums and often take over Instagram feeds in October," says Darlene Downey of Downey's Farm.

"With the announcement that Peel Region was moving to a modified Stage 2, we made the difficult but necessary decision to put all these pumpkins, again one by one, and by hand, and place them in bins. A fence was built around the area to monitor the number of guests in the area, as well as enforcing time limits."

Pumpkins are still available until October 31, the Barn Market store is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the Farmyard Play Area is open with limited capacity, but tickets have to be purchased online prior to visiting and they often sell out. The farm also asks that people limit the number of people visiting from your household.

"Although this has had a huge impact on our business, we are committed to being part of the solution. As much as a pumpkin picture at Downey's Farm is part of our guests tradition, it is part of ours too," says Downey. 

"We are optimistic that we will be able to build this display of pumpkins again next year. There are still thousands of pumpkins of all shapes and sizes available for purchase."

by Amy Carlberg via blogTO

Doug Ford says he's praying he doesn't need to expand lockdown

It's been three days since Toronto, Peel and Ottawa were relegated back to a version of Stage 2 lockdown under which gyms, movie theatres, casinos and museum exhibitions were closed down, and indoor service at bars and restaurants put on hold for at least 28 days.

And now, for all those elsewhere in Ontario who have been wagging their fingers at the three hotspot regions, Premier Doug Ford has indicated that extending the measures to other parts of the province is not out of the question right now.

"I always sit down with Chief Medical Officer Dr. Williams and the command table to get their input... I'm just praying that we don't have to expand this," Ford said at his media briefing on Tuesday, adding that it was painful to have to make the move to close down parts of the province last week.

Though he stated that there are no such plans for any additional regions firmed up at the moment, Ford vowed to continue to base future decisions about restrictions on the advice of the province's top health officials, as well as new case and hospitalization numbers.

"[We've got] to get our hands around the spike of 939 cases on Friday that we saw. We can't take anything for granted and we can't let our guard down," he told reporters today on the subject. "I'm always going to follow the command table's advice."

Though there is no set number for how many new cases per day in a region would qualify it to return to a more stringent version of pandemic lockdown, Ford said the public will be the first to know.

Health experts and residents of more rural parts of the province have been calling for tougher health and safety rules in Toronto for some weeks now, given that the populous urban centre has had the bulk of new cases during the second wave.

The most recent epidemiologic summary from Public Health Ontario shows 746 new cases and nine additional deaths in the last 24 hours. A total of 624 more patients are also now considered resolved since yesterday, as are 85.2 per cent of all infections in the province.

Two hundred and thirty Ontarians remain hospitalized with the communicable disease, with 60 of them in the ICU and 34 requiring the use of a ventilator.

Testing, now by appointment only, remains fairly high at 31,233 — though below the mid-October target of 50,000 per day — and per cent positivity is very slowly starting to trend upwards again, albeit still hovering below 2.5 per cent.

by Becky Robertson via blogTO

Toronto restaurant famous for its Mexican sandwiches forced to shut down storefront

Torteria San Cosme has quietly left their Kensington market location. The spot has been known as one of the city's best Mexican restaurants, serving some of the best sandwiches, churros and all-around cheap eats.

"It is with great sadness that we inform you that due to present circumstances, Torteria San Cosme will be closing its doors at Kensington Market indefinitely," reads an announcement on the restaurant's website.

"From the bottom of our hearts, we thank our die hard Torta fans for your following, our market neighbours for their friendship & to everyone who visited & supported our Torteria. We're not saying good bye, just yet, only hasta luego!"

"Unfortunately I was forced to make the sad and very hard decision to let our Kensington market shop go. Under the present circumstances we were just not able to make the necessary level of sales, the pressure & stress has been overwhelming," says Arturo Anhalt, founder and chef at Milagro Cantinas and Torteria San Cosme.

"San Cosme depended on high volumes more so in the weekends & during the summer, to make up for the slower weekdays & winter months. We literally lost our sales. The catastrophic combination of slower sales, delivery app fees, high rents and government restrictions have made it impossible for us to remain open."

It's not the first iconic spot Kensington Market has lost: Moo Frites was a casualty of the pandemic as well. However, all is not lost for fans of San Cosme's layered, spicy torta sandwiches.

"As of this coming weekend we're doing a virtual pop-up from our kitchen in Milagro on Mercer Street, taking orders online for pickup in our web page and through most of the better known food delivery and pickup apps," says Anhalt. "We are trying our hardest to get through this terrible situation."

That means starting the weekend of October 16, if you've had a San Cosme torta craving for months, you should finally be able to satisfy it.

by Amy Carlberg via blogTO

Drake celebrates son's birthday with epic balloon display at his Toronto mansion

Drake is celebrating more life in Toronto with his son Adonis, who recently turned three years-old.

The rapstar posted a picture to his Instagram yesterday of him posing with Adonis in his Toronto mansion, surrounded by balloons.

Young Stunna.

A post shared by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on

Oh, to be a three-year-old again (read: the offspring of a wealthy celebrity). 

Drake, who only posted photos of his son for the first time earlier this year, is evidently getting more comfortable sharing pics of his son for his fans to see.

It feels like only yesterday the rapper admitted to his son's existence following Push T's diss track. How time flies. 

Adonis' mother Sophie Brussaux also shared a photo of her son in an adorable space suit on her personal Instagram. 

"We did that @champagnepapi," tagging Drake. Wholesome content right there. 

by Tanya Mok via blogTO

Protesters take to Toronto streets to demand Canada act on Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict

Toronto's Armenian community is demonstrating and speaking out in light of the ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and they're demanding that the federal government take swift action against Turkey's alleged involvement in the violence.

Protestors marched through Toronto last Friday to show support and solidarity for those suffering in Armenia and Artsakh, and they called on the government to condemn the military agression that has been ongoing for several weeks now.

A years-long conflict over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is a self-proclaimed South Caucasion state situated within Azerbaijan but is home to ethnic Armenians, erupted into intense violence reminiscent of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 at the end of September. 

The Armenian-backed Republic of Artsakh has been controlling the area since 1994 despite its location within Azerbaijan, though Artsakh's government is not recognized internationally. 

According to The New York Times, the recent violence in the region is "the worst fighting the area had seen since a vicious ethnic war in the 1990s," and Armenian officials say Turkey is helping their ethnic Turkic ally Azerbaijan by sending arms, Syrian mercenaries and escalating the violence.

Roughly 75,000 Armenians have been displaced as a result of the conflict, and countless soldiers and civilians have been killed following the shelling of Armenian schools and hospitals in recent days — including Toronto-native Krisdapor Artin who died while fighting for Armenia earlier this month.

As a result, the Armenian disapora, including in Toronto, has been speaking out all over the world in an effort to urge foreign powers to get involved and help put a stop to the violence and agression. 

On Oct. 6, Canada's minister of foreign affairs, François-Phillippe Champagne, issued a joint statement with the U.K. foreign secretary stating the "urgent need to end the continuing military action in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone."

And in the previous day, Champagne also said Canada had halted its exports of a drone-targeting sensor, which are made in Ontario, to Turkey amid allegations that they're being used by Azeri forces. 

Some have said this isn't enough, however, and are also calling on the federal government to demand that Turkey stay out of the conflict, or vouch for the country's removal from NATO.

Following Friday's protest, meanwhile, Toronto Mayor John Tory issued  a statement in support of the city's Armenian community.

"I am a strong supporter of Toronto's Armenian community and understand the pain and sorrow that this ongoing violence is causing the community," he said.

"I strongly support the federal government's decision to suspend the exports of military drones. I know they are committed to doing all that they can to help stabilize the situation and move towards peace," he continued.

"I condemn any form of terrorism or the use of military technology in this conflict and join the many calls that have been made thus far in encouraging a negotiated peace resolution, a ceasefire and protection of civilians in this region."

by Mira Miller via blogTO

Someone in Toronto has a solution for Halloween and neighbours are on board

Halloween is just over two weeks away, and while the pandemic threatens to ruin the best time of the year for kids everywhere, some residents are trying to come up with safe and socially distant ways to keep the holiday alive.

Candy sticking is one suggestion that has gained a lot of traction online due to the fact that it is no-contact and adds in a new layer of fun, but there is another idea that has become popular in at least one Toronto neighbourhood.

Geoff Burke, who is known in some of the city's community Facebook groups for posting plumbing tips in a series he calls How NOT to Call the Plumber, is among those who have proposed the "candy chute" or "candy slide," an amusing way to get goodies to trick-or-treaters while still keeping the threat of COVID-19 in mind this year.

Burke has taken it one step further by turning the concept into a fundraiser, asking locals to donate much-needed funds to the Daily Bread Food Bank in exchange for a custom chute that he and his company Watermark Plumbing Services will provide and install.

"We've decided to put our plumbing skills to good use (outside of your home this time). We are trying to give twice in this campaign: First, providing much needed support for the Daily Bread Food Bank in these critical times, and second, helping to facilitate a safer Halloween!" Burke wrote in an Annex Facebook group over the weekend.

"For a minimum $25 donation, we are going to be running around the neighbourhood, providing and installing decorated candy chutes on the railings outside of the homes of anyone who would like one! We hope to help provide a safe way to trick-or-treat this year, while also giving back to the community."

Since posting about the initiative, Burke and his team have apparently received such a huge response — from nearly 300 people, an update says — that they've had to close requests for the time being.

But, the mechanism is definitely simple enough to construct and decorate for anyone who is still eager to celebrate spooky season.

Commenters on the thread have raved about what a cute and fantastic idea the festive little slides are, saying that "Halloween is saved!"

Other quirky ideas that have been proposed to save Halloween 2020 include using tongs to dispense candy into the hands of costumed young'ns, spacing out bags of sweets on a blanket or table, and building what the Alberta government refers to as a "candy catapult".

by Becky Robertson via blogTO

Student's bio replaced with racist message in Pickering high school yearbook

The Durham Catholic District School Board has launched an official investigation with the local police after a student's intended yearbook bio was replaced with a blatantly racist message and distributed to the entire student body.

Joshua Telemaque is a student at St. Mary Catholic Secondary School in Pickering, and he intended to honour his late grandmother in his yearbook message by writing "RIP Grandma. Thank you for guiding me through my four years of high school."

But instead of this heartfelt message being printed next to his name and photo, a racist message about Harambe, the gorilla that was shot and killed at the Cincinnati Zoo, was written in its place.

"Folks, racism is alive in Canada. This morning I received a frantic call from my sister, who was very distraught about how my nephew, Joshua, was portrayed in his high school yearbook," wrote Mayma Raphael, Telemaque's aunt, in a Facebook post this past weekend along with a photo of the yearbook page.

"Even though he has never caused any school issues or had any disciplinary actions against him, a star athlete at the school, excelling in football, basketball, and track and field — all this didn't shield him from racism's emotional and psychological impact."

Raphael's post was immediately met with widespread outrage and disgust, and the high school's principal, Susan Duane, issued a letter in response soon after.

In her letter, Duane referred to the comments as "malicious, hurtful and racist in nature," and said they "sincerely apologize to the school community for the offensive, hurtful and unacceptable nature of these comments."

Duane also said they've launched a formal investigation in collaboration with the Durham Regional Police, and that any students found to have participated in such a racist act will be subject to disciplinary action according to the Ontario Schools Code of Conduct and/or applicable policies of the Durham Catholic District School Board.

First and foremost, she said, the school is asking all students to return their yearbooks directly to the school's office today, on Oct. 13, and she added that a full inventory will be completed to ensure every copy is accounted for.

Meanwhile, another statement issued by the director of education for the Durham Catholic District School Board, Tracy Barill, says the board will "work with the school not only to ensure that the incident is fully investigated but also to support students and the community in rectifying the harm that has been done."

But in a press conference this past weekend, Telemaque said he was shocked and devastated following the incident, adding that he was holding back years and felt deeply hurt. 

"He's now devastated, embarrassed, hurt, and disappointed. Since this was his final year at the school, he was really looking forward to his yearbook. Now his memory of his time at the school is forever ruined. How can something like this happen?" continued Raphael in her post.

"This cruel act echoes the many incidences of racism that many Black Canadian kids experience throughout their time in the education system. The school needs to take action to get this situation fixed. Our kids are suffering way too much."

As Telemaque's story continues to circulate on social media and beyond, one Good Samaritan has created a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to help pay for his post-secondary education. 

Organizer Martin Buckingham wrote that it's Telemaque's dream to play football in university, and he started the fundraiser to allow the student's supporters to help him acheive that goal. 

"Joshua Telemaque was the victim of a cruel joke that was published in his schools annual yearbook.  The story of the racist event has gone world-wide on Facebook and Joshua has recieved support form thousands of peopel in Canada, the US, Europe, and the Caribbean," reads the campaign description.

"The purpose of this GoFundMe is to allow those supporters contribute to Joshua's post secondary education."

by Mira Miller via blogTO