‘Otherwise it’s not a real city’: Vaughan injects artsy vibe into downtown as music festival peaks

Canadian vocal group The Tenors and Italian singer Alberto Urso (second from left) end the inaugural Vaughan International Music Festival on a high note. District 4 Com. Sandra Yeung Racco (center) is the mastermind behind the festival.

With a one-of-a-kind music festival causing a stir, the City of Vaughan has launched its action plan to integrate arts and culture into its emerging downtown – at the Vaughan Metropolitan Center (VMC).

The inaugural Vaughan International Music Festival ended on a high note with a superb “Hallelujah” quartet performance by Canadian vocal group The Tenors and their guest, Italian singer Alberto Urso.

The free multicultural festival showcased musical talent ranging from Asia to the Caribbean. The party drew more than 1,000 music lovers to MVC’s transit plaza over the weekend of June 11-12, according to city councilor Sandra Yeung Racco, the mastermind behind the music festival.

“In any city you build, you have to bring arts and culture to it,” said Yeung Racco, an avid musician herself. “Otherwise it’s not a real city.”

The volunteer and company-sponsored music festival also featured Toronto child prodigy Roberta Battaglia of “America’s Got Talent” and Vaughan’s “American Idol” sensation Nicolina Bozzo.

“I’m so happy to be part of this community where everyone is so close,” Bozzo told the Vaughan Citizen right after stepping off stage. “It’s really amazing to play at home where it all started.”

Yeung Racco hopes the music festival will serve as a springboard to help kick-start the transformation of the city’s new downtown.

“It’s going to incentivize more,” the adviser said. “Arts and culture is a vital part of any city’s economy. And I think that’s what we’re doing.

“We want to use music to embrace diversity because we live in such a multicultural community. We want to support our young emerging artists.”

After two years of the pandemic, she said it was even more vital to have such festivals for the public to come together and celebrate.

Vaughan Music Festival

The city is currently in the process of updating the MVC Secondary Plan and citizens are being asked to provide feedback on the area’s priorities. By 2031, according to the city, up to 63,350 residents in nearly 32,000 residential units are expected to move into the trendy downtown area near the VMC station.

In 2017, Vaughan made history when it hosted the GTA’s first subway station outside of Toronto. In 2019, the VMC again made headlines when it became home to the permanent location of Niagara University, the first-ever university to be established in Vaughan and York Region.

Last year, downtown was decorated by artists with 30,000 square foot murals and vibrant graffiti, creating a breathtaking work of art.

More recently, a new state-of-the-art recreation facility and library have also taken up residence at the VMC.

The David Braley Vaughan Metropolitan Center of Community, slated to open June 20, includes the city’s newest recreation venue, a public library branch and a YMCA center.

Located in the heart of the MVC at 200 Apple Mill Road, the community center is just steps from the MVC subway station, making it easily accessible to the entire community.

The Vaughan Studios & Event Space is a new 19,000 square foot entertainment venue with a rooftop terrace. This site will provide top quality recreational programming for the community, including a Dancing Chefs summer camp.

Just a few blocks away, Cineplex Cinemas Vaughan is gearing up for the Vaughan International Film Festival, which is celebrating a special leg of its 10th edition June 20-23.

The tenors

For councilor Yeung Racco, the buzz created by the first music festival brings both confidence and challenge for the future.

“We hope it will be an annual (event) and maybe we will add a dance component next year,” she said. “We will try to continue to remain free, but we need the support of the community and the company, so that everyone can become a friend of our festival.”

With The Tenors setting the bar so high, however, the longtime adviser doesn’t know how to top that. “I will do my best to do better.”

STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Reporter Yoyo Yan attended a music festival in Vaughan and wanted to know what role these events are playing in the process of transforming the city’s burgeoning downtown.

About Monty S. Maynard

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