"This time it is going to be different," said Estonian Central Council (EKN) President, Avo Kittask, adding, "We are going to have a big band and dancing." Kittask had in mind the traditional Estonian Independence Day diplomatic reception in Toronto, changing a sometimes stodgy diplomatic function to having a good time, while still marking with decorum and dignity a significant date in Estonia's history.
The organizers - EKN and the Honourary Consulate - delivered on Kittask's promise. The Big Hall of the Estonian House was full of people, they were packed in solid, they were dancing, having a good time and the diplomats were staying to the very end. It was indeed a celebration - it was also great fun.
Estonian Honourary Consul in Canada Laas Leivat greeted people at the door with aplomb.
The EKN Medal of Merit was given first to Madeline Ziniak, vice president and studio manager of OMNI-TV for her behind the scenes activity in facilitating the Estonian language series Telepeegel and the documentaries 25,000 Sing and GULAG 113. The second recipient was music producer and impresario Lawrence Cherney of Soundstreams Canada, who has brought many Estonian musicians to this country for public performances.
The first politician to speak was Peter Van Loan, MP and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Van Loan spoke of how he was brought up by an Estonian mother, grandmother and grandfather. He also pointed out that everybody in Foreign Affairs knows that he is "Estonian".
The next to speak was Michael Prue, MPP, former mayor of East York and now NDP provincial member of parliament. He described how he became familiar with the Estonian community when he was mayor.
Another guest was City of Toronto Councillor and mayoral candidate Jane Pitfield. Her reason for running is that, "City spending needs to be brought under control." Black Ribbon Day founder Markus Hess escorted Pitfield at the event, introducing her to the community.
And the big band that Kittask promised? It was none other than the Toronto Starlight Orchestra, conducted by the legendary Paul Weston, featuring reedman Vaado Sarapuu. Sarapuu, who many know as the editor of the online version of this newspaper, was also recognized two days laterin the same hall at the reception honouring Estonian war veterans with a well-deserved Estonian Central Council Medal of Merit of his own.
It seems that from now on this event will no longer be called a reception, but quite rightly a celebration.
The Independence Day diplomatic reception becomes a celebration