It’s been almost a week since Toronto had its first celebration of We The North Day with the Toronto Raptors Championship Parade. Toronto has been thrown in the global spotlight, and I’ve decided to share what I saw around the streets of Toronto.
I’m sure everyone has a story about this year’s NBA season with the Raptors winning the championship. Here’s my story about the craziness that I saw in the city.
I’m not into basketball, and I don’t follow the NBA. Any knowledge I have of basketball comes from my high school days when I spent 24/7 with my super obsessed Kobe Bryant friend. As for the Raptors team…well, I’ve been to a few live games thanks to my volunteering days for the 50/50 draw. I even had the chance to sit on courtside once, but in true chicken fashion, I spent most of the time fearing that the ball would hit me.
So I never really followed the Raptors game this season
Ok, except for when the Raptors scored twelve three-pointers in a game because that meant we Ontario peops can get free fries from McDonald’s. But that all changed when Kawhi Leonard broke the tie between the Raptors and 76ers, scoring right before the buzzer went off.
Here it is in slow motion if you can’t get enough of that epic shot. That shot sent the Raptors to the Eastern Finals and the rest of Toronto in a craze.
Then came that fateful night when the Raptors WON THE NBA CHAMPIONSHIP
It was pure madness.
I was watching the game from home and had my balcony door open near the end. It felt like every single one of my neighbours was shouting, “let’s go Raptors!” at the top of their lungs! There was so much madness on the streets of Toronto. At least every streetlight had a brave soul who climbed the top of the lamppost. A man with a big plant passed by me at some point and I had no idea why he was carrying such a big plant. Turns out, he was the Plant Guy who heard that Kawhi was buying a house in Toronto and wanted to give him a housewarming gift. (in case you’re wondering, Plant Guy had the chance to deliver his housewarming gift to Kawhi at the parade).
The streets of Toronto were absolutely insane. Strangers were high fiving each other, and everyone was in good spirits, screaming, “WE WON!” Toronto felt like one big party.
I stayed out until 1:30 am before heading home and calling it a night
That plan didn’t work out too well, and I didn’t sleep until 4 am. Cars would not stop honking, and fans continued to cheer for hours. I survived on less than three hours of sleep that night. But that’s ok, I wouldn’t have been able to sleep even if the noise subsided because of all the adrenaline that was running through my veins.
Then came the day of the parade, and the first We The North Day
Sometime over the weekend, Toronto’s mayor proclaimed June 17th to be the first We the North Day in Toronto. That Monday also happened to be the day of the parade.
The parade was set to leave Princes’ Boulevard at 10 am and was expected to arrive at Nathan Phillips Square by 12:30 pm. I had friends watching from different places along the Championship Parade route and couldn’t decide where to go. G told me to join him and his coworkers, who were waiting on University Avenue and that I should meet him. It was already 11, and he and his colleagues were standing along the parade route.
I rushed out the door and started walking towards him only to change plans midway. I figured I should take advantage of my work-from-home situation and try to catch the parade along Lakeshore where it might be less crowded.
Without even thinking, I headed towards the CN Tower, walked south and looked for a road that allowed access to Lakeshore
My heart was racing as I rushed towards the parade route because I did not see anyone who seemed to be attending the parade. In fact, people were walking towards me, away from the Championship Parade route. I felt nothing but panic at the thought that I may have missed the parade.
I walked towards Lakeshore anyways to see small groups of people standing along the roads. Only then did I learn that not only did I NOT miss the parade, but the championship bus had not left yet!
I kept walking until I ran into an old friend. The timing couldn’t be better because we spent an hour catching up. Just as we finished talking, police motorcycles started driving up and down the roads signalling fans to get off and on to the curb.
Finally, after another fifteen minutes of waiting, the parade was about to pass by us!
First came the police cars
Of course, the one person I really wanted to see was Kawhi. It was actually hard to spot him at first because he was sitting down. But then I saw him, and then I realized he was looking my way! My heart stopped for a second when I realized he was looking at me! Likely because I was holding a camera but you know, still very cool!
Once the parade was over, I couldn’t decide if I should go home or not. I figured I’d walk along the parade route to catch another glimpse of the bus.
The rest of the parade route was crazy packed
I thought about walking north on University towards Nathan Phillips Square to see the festivities. However, once I went past King Street, there were so many people that I decided to ditch my original idea. Everywhere I turned, there were at least ten rows of people away from the road. I finally managed to find a spot where I wasn’t too far from the road and decided to stay there for a bit.
I thought the parade was going to pass by us soon
I was so wrong. Apparently, there was just too many people on the road and cops were struggling with crowd control, causing delays in the parade. I kept debating between staying and walking home, but every time I was about to leave the area, a police siren would go off, and I’d come running back thinking that the parade was about to pass through the street. False alarm. One too many. Yup, I pretty much spent an hour pacing back and forth between two blocks, debating between going home and waiting to see the parade again. Oh well, at least I got some sunshine and some exercise.
Finally, the parade passed by and I got to see the stars again. This time, I was less focused on taking photos and more on enjoying the moment. I noticed there was a lot of people around me complaining that the Raptors were 5.5 hours behind schedule. I wasn’t so bitter because I managed to catch the parade earlier in a less crowded area, but I could understand the frustration. Many people were waiting on University as early as 8 am.
It was predicted that over two million people would come out to watch the parade
I wouldn’t be surprised if that number was underestimated because Toronto was crazy packed. Of course, something of that size is not without its issues. Right as the players arrived at Nathan Phillip’s Square, a shooting happened that caused a stampede. Just less than an hour before that, a few stabbings happened at the Yonge and Dundas Square.
Even though there were a lot of good stories that came out of this historical moment, it’s worth reading about some of the negative experiences about the day. Here are some thought-provoking threads from Reddit that will give you a different perspective about the parade:
- A frightening story about someone who was near the shooting during the parade
- Discussion started by someone who was at Nathan Phillips Square
- Positive stories and experiences at the parade
The North has spoken
I feel very fortunate that I had a great time at the Raptors parade and have been on a month of this high that has fallen on the city ever since the Raptors made it to the finals. These are the moments where I feel so proud of my city and so proud of my country. When people ask me if I miss being on the road, I shake my head. Being able to celebrate the Raptors win is one of the many reasons why I am so grateful to be living in Toronto.
Watch the whole parade here on YouTube
A moment to never forget. A lot of fun. Now imagine if the Leafs win a Cup?!
The city would be insane!