TORONTO -- Bring your dancing shoes to the 19th annual Beaches International Jazz Festival, July 20-29. More than 800,000 Canadian and American visitors attend the event, making it one of Toronto's most successful summer festivals.
The prelude presentation, PartiGras, will be held in the Distillery Historic District (Mill Street, between Parliament Cherry streets), July 20-22. Other events take place in venues throughout the Beaches neighborhood.
Smooth jazz, boogie-woogie piano, jazz guitar and even Celtic fusion are among the featured sounds.
Musical highlights include award-winning Cuban jazz artist Hilario Duran and Havana Remembered, popular Barbadian tenor pannist (steel band musician) David "Ziggy" Walcott and New Orleans trombone band Bonerama.
Plenty of vendors will be on hand selling food, beverages and arts and crafts.
Budding musicians will want to check out the educational workshops on topics such as Jazz on Radio and History of the Tenor Sax.
There is even a Jazz Kitchen Southern Cooking class, with Food Network Canada chef Kevin Clark who shares his secrets of southern home cooking. Those classes take place in the Mennonite New Life Centre, 1774 Queen Street West, July 23-25. Each class is free, but registration is required.
All events are free, except "An Ovation of Jazz," a hospital benefit held July 25 in the Balmy Beach Club.
For information: (416) 410-8809, www.beachesjazz.com.
On the fringe
Toronto is certainly living up to the famous William Shakespeare quote, "All the world's a stage."
During the city's annual "Fringe Festival," opening Wednesday and continuing through July 15, playgrounds and parking lots are among the unusual spots being turned into stages.
More than 750 artists will be performing in at least 140 productions at 30 venues around Toronto's Annex neighborhood and theater district during the festival. Productions range from dramas to musical extravaganzas to improv.
Last year, more than 47,000 people attended the festival, making it Toronto's largest theater festival. Even better: 100 percent of the box office is returned to the performers.
Shows run continually from 11 a.m. to midnight daily and most tickets are $10 each. Good news for out-of-town theatergoers: Only half of all tickets are sold in advance with the remaining half going on sale one hour before each performance. Of note: The 1999 Fringe hit "The Drowsy Chaperone" is currently playing on Broadway, where it won five Tony Awards, and in London's West End. A touring production will perform in Shea's Performing Arts Center next March.
Information on each performance is available at the festival's Web site, www.fringetoronto.com. Be sure to read the "How to Fringe" section, which suggests that you arrive early because latecomers will not be seated at any performance. Also, all tickets are general admission. Since parking is limited at venues, do not plan on driving to theaters.
The Fringe Hotline, (416) 966-1062, is active from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the festival. An information table will be at the The Fringe Club, 292 Brunswick Ave.
Bargain hunters craving the eclectic cuisine in Toronto's stellar dining scene should mark their calendars for "Summerlicious," which takes place beginning Wednes through July 22. More than 130 of Toronto's finest restaurants will offer a prix fixe lunch at $15 or $20 (CDN.) and dinner at $25 or $35, not including beverages, taxes and gratuity.
In addition, participating establishments will feature a special selection of award-winning, limited-edition wines (at additional charge) from several wineries including Jackson-Triggs and Inniskillin in the Niagara region and Australia's Goundrey Homestead. Reservations must be made directly with a restaurant. The event's Web site, www.toronto.ca/special_events
/summerlicious, has a complete list of restaurants by name, type of cuisine and neighborhood, as well as menus and contact information. You can also reach the Summerlicious sponsor, the City of Toronto' s Special Events Department, at (416) 395-0490.
The largest display of animatronic, life-size dinosaurs in the world have invaded the Toronto Zoo. Meet face-to-face with 16 large, moving, roaring and thoroughly realistic dinosaur stars such as the tyrannosaurus rex, stegosaurus and triceratops -- complete with authentic sounds, sights and special effects. There is also a display of skeletons and fossils of Chinese dinosaurs exhibited for the first time in Ontario.
The exhibit, continuing through Oct. 8, is free with general zoo admission. For more information: (416) 392-5900, www.torontozoo.com.