The Scotiabank Caribana Festival kicks off in Toronto July 9, when the city will come alive with a three-week Caribbean party.
The annual Toronto Caribbean Carnival, or the Scotiabank Caribana Festival, offers numerous events for families to celebrate Caribbean heritage. The largest musical extravaganza in North America started as a three-day community heritage project for 1967 Canada’s centennial year. Now more than 1.5 million people attend this authentic cultural Caribbean three-week celebration with impressive events for the entire family to enjoy. Toronto comes to life from mid-July to early August and is converted into one big musical stage. Artists are invited from different parts of the world, turning the Caribbean Carnival into one of the most exciting musical celebrations for both local and foreign spectators.
The free official launch ceremony kicks off this event and gives an idea of what’s to come in the weeks ahead. There is a two-day Olympic Island Arts Festival, a calypso competition, a king and queen pageant, as well as outdoor concerts with live performances by popular Caribbean music artists. Visitors can enjoy traditional calypso, soca, salsa, hip hop, brass band, reggae and steel-pan music, along with performing arts, dances, revelry and parties of all kinds. Costumes of the Bahamas, Jamaica, Brazil, Guyana and other Caribbean nations are represented in the most culturally-diverse city in the world. Favorite and traditional mouth-watering foods from Cuba, Jamaica and Trinidad will be available at many locations.
Other free events include the Summertime Barbeque, the Junior Carnival Parade, the entertaining steel pan competition Pan Alive, live music, enlightening art displays and theatrical performances that will show what the local Caribbean life is like. Attendees won’t want to miss the closing service plus lots of lively parties and events. The Festival Gala and the king and queen competition at Lamport Stadium may require paid admission, but they are certainly worth attending.
The calypso beat has been a staple at the carnival Parade since its debut. Soca is newer and started popping up about 15 years ago. For those not familiar with this cousin of calypso, it has a faster sound and the lyrics are often comedic. Steel pans will also be performing since some of North America’s most skillful players are happy to play at the event.
The main highlight and attraction is the Carnival Parade, one of the largest in North America. In 2013 it will kick off Aug. 3 at Exhibition Place at 10 a.m. and last until approximately 6 p.m. Thousands of elaborately-costumed masqueraders and lively dancers, competing masquerade bands and dozens of floats are sure to delight the more than 1 million onlookers who will line the 4.5 km span along Lakeshore Boulevard and Parkside Drive to view this free Caribbean street party. A large Caribbean population spends months preparing the detailed and magnificent masquerade costumes to wear in this once-a-year celebration.
For those who prefer a comfortable seat inside Exhibition Place, where they can watch the whole performance up close, tickets are affordable. Considering the length of the parade, it is definitely worth the cost.
To which part of the Toronto’s Caribbean Carnival are you most looking forward?