JOHNNY BARBALINARDO LOMBARDI (19l5-2002) was a affable leader in the Italian community of Toronto, Ontario, being notable for promoting the Italian culture and
the spirit of friendship between all cultural communities in Canada. His accomplishments include the foundation of CHIN Radio, a multilingual station, and the organization of
International CHIN Picnic, the largest free picnic in the world. The picnic is a 3-to-4 day annual public event held during the Canada Day holidays; its activities include
folk musics and dances, concerts, a bazaar, an amusement park, a zoo, dog show, bikini contests, ....
Johnny was born on 4 December 1915 in downtown Toronto. At an early age, his musical talents and interests led him to study music and later joined the Bugle and Harmonica Bands of Boys clubs. At 14, he formed his own band. In 1930s, he was employed as a lead trumpeter in the Benny Palmer Orchestra in London, Ontario. In 1942, he enlisted in the Canadian Army and was stationed in Europe. His was first assigned as a bugler and a bandsmen, but then as a sergeant with Armoured Corps, Education Corps, and Engineers. He received many decorations and honours for his roles in the War.
In 1946, he retired from the Army and returned to Toronto and opened a grocery business, which was grown into a supermarket in an area known as "Little Italy" in Toronto. As the business becoming established, his wife and a sister could run its daily management, while he was able to pursue other interests such as promoting his business, Italian concerts and the community. He produced radio programmes in Italian with CHUM and CKFN stations, and finally he applied for a radio station license. In 1966, he set up CHIN Radio and then hosted the first CHIN Picnic.
In 2002, he died on 18 March in Toronto. Many of his friends and Torontonian residents came to his funerals. In that summer the Picnic continued with a temporary memorial gallery for visitors to pay tributes to Johnny. The CHIN Picnic was hosted by his son Leonard (Lenny), who has kept the event running every year since then. Note that the month and venue were changed to the middle of June and to College Street in the Little Italy area of Toronto in 2015 and later years.