Heat warning for the GTA, record-setting temperatures. Stay hydrated, check on your neighbours, don’t leave children and pets unattended.

Newspapers headlines and the radio screeched warnings going into the July long weekend as people braced themselves, stocked up on ice and sunscreen and made plans to stay cool. Meanwhile in a small square area of West Willowdale tucked away between Yonge and Senlac and Churchill and Park Home, a group of people were busy with frantic preparations: shopping for burgers, buns and hot dogs, discussing the placement of tents and the adequacy of garbage bins and checking off items in their to-do list.

It was, of course, a big, event-filled weekend but more importantly, it was the Canada Day barbecue hosted every year since 2016 at Dempsey Park. The barbecue is sponsored by member donations and generously subsidized by organizations such as Metro and Canterbuy Place and York Cemetary. It is one of, and perhaps the most prominent event organized by the association heralding the start of summer. It offers an opportunity for folks from the area to get together, learn of recent improvements and future events in the community and catch up on tidbits like what the neighbourhood foxes have been up to or when the new park at Abbotsford will be completed. In a city as well as an area of the city that is starting to bulge out at the seams, something as familiar and homely as a community barbecue is one of the ways that the association tries to sustain the sense of connectedness and belonging. This year’s event too saw a generous turnout despite or because of the heat, it’s difficult to tell. As volunteer members of the WWNA flipped burgers and grilled hot dogs, children played games of horseshoe, badminton, ball into the hole, etc. and parents and residents caught up with each other. By the time the event wrapped up new friends had been made, phone numbers exchanged and new folks added to the roster, some as associate members because they resided outside the boundaries ear-marked, which is both heartening and suggestive.

In case you missed this year’s barbecue, there are future events in the pipeline and we hope to see you there.

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