Story by Ofelia Legaspi
TORONTO — Way ahead of the snow in Toronto is a curious population explosion of giant snowmen.
These aren’t your stereotypical cold-blooded kind, however; they are made of fibreglass. But this hasn’t stopped one unenlightened snowman from wearing a horrified expression as he finds himself in the toasty indoors of the Delta Chelsea in downtown. There’s one that came prepared with cable-knit sweater, though, and one whose inborn Frosty identity is lost on him as he sports what seems like a Mexican wrestling mask.
These pimped-out winter characters are part of the marketing initiative of Tourism Toronto to raise funds for the Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada and to draw visitors to the city with a free saver wristband and discounted accommodations.
Each snowman is uniquely designed by members of the artist collective, Narwhal, which includes OCAD University graduate Patrick Kyle, whose illustrations have appeared in The Walrus and The New York Times. For every photo taken with any of the 20 art installations and emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or texted to 647TAGSNOW, Torontoland will donate $2 to the Starlight foundation supporting children with chronic and life-threatening illness and life-altering injuries. The photos are then uploaded to Facebook.com/VisitToronto. About $3,000 has been raised, with almost a month left in the campaign.
“On December 20, we’re going to light up the CN Tower to the level we raised in terms of our goal, and, hopefully, we get to the top,” said Andrew Weir, Tourism Toronto’ s vice president of communications.
Tourism Toronto’s microsite, Trending.SeeTorontoNow.com, showcases a comprehensive guide to spending the holidays in the city, complete with a free Toronto city guide app, online maps, Toronto trends tracker, and city discounts on accommodation, parking, dining, shopping, events and attractions. Its free saver wristband gives 15-percent discounts to participating restaurants and retailers, and a 20-percent savings on many Toronto attractions. These wristbands can be obtained at a participating hotel, or by sharing Torontoland savings on Facebook. Visitors can also combine the wristband with a hotel package ranging from $99 to $179 per night.
Tourism Toronto’s $1.2-million marketing campaign hopes to increase occupancy in the city’s hotels in December, the slowest month of the year. Business conventions going on holiday hiatus can bring the average occupancy rate of 68 percent down to almost 50 percent during the month.
For those craving the Christmas atmosphere, Torontoland offers plenty. One of the best attractions is the Toronto Christmas Market that opens December 2. “It’s a very old-style European Christmas market, all outdoors in the magnificent setting of the Distillery Historic District,” said Weir.
The Toronto Christmas Market is outfitted with all the Christmas fixings until December 18: Christmas lights, Ferris wheel, fairytale forest maze, Santa’s house, Rudolph’s reindeer zoo, carolers, among others.
“It’s about being around the city and feeling the warmth and the chill of the holidays all at the same time,” Weir added.
Among the highlights are the recently unveiled seasonal lights at Yonge and Dundas Square and the Cavalcade of Lights in Nathan Phillips Square that take place this Saturday. The festivities all build on last Sunday’s 107th Santa Claus Parade.
Even though Torontoland is aimed for out-of-town tourists, especially those from U.S. cities, it is also meant to encourage Torontonians to come out and rekindle their romance with the city.
“It’s nice not having to make your own bed and just stay at a hotel for a day or two and be a tourist in your own city,” said Weir. “It’s a great season to do that.”