Let loose at Caribbean Carnival
The Caribbean Carnival was "HOT, HOT, HOT" in Toronto on July 30, 2011. (Dave Thomas/QMI Agency)
It's been exciting crowds for 45 years, but this year's Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival promises to be the best yet.
Every year, thousands of revellers embrace the Caribbean as Toronto explodes with the rhythms and melodies of Calypso, Reggae and Steel Pan, and masqueraders shake and shimmy beside extravagant floats.
Sam Lewis, the carnival's general manager of operations, says the former Caribana has made leaps and bounds over the last four decades from attracting 1,000 visitors in the beginning, to as many as one million now enjoying the parade.
"It has changed direction in that time," admits Lewis. "We're in a different country, a country where carnival is not part of its culture, so we have to do things a little bit different. We have to remember that in Trinidad and Tobago, carnival is part of the national theme, whereas here, it is not.
"There are certain things that have had to be tempered, but what we've found is that there has been an influx of Canadian participants in the festival, it's no longer the Trinidad carnival."
This year's musical highlights include international acts Orlando Octave and Lavaman, and local artists Moses Revolution and Trevor Barrow.
Organizers are also excited about some new events for 2012.
On Aug. 4 there's a huge fish fry, and on Aug. 5 Beyond De Lime, a food festival and concert on South beach.
"Lime is a colloquial word used in Trinidad to describe friends hanging out together, having a good time, talking and drinking and dancing" explains Lewis.
The piece de resistance, the parade, will take place on Aug. 4, with masqueraders in colourful costumes and steel bands partying from Exhibition Place along a 3.5-kilometre stretch on Lakeshore Boulevard.
It attracts people from all over North America, the Caribbean, Europe and Asia and has, in fact, outgrown its route.
"If I have my way, how I'd like to see it grow is for it to become a national event," shares Lewis. In the Caribbean, the parade lasts two days. "I don't expect that to happen, but we've outgrown the routes because we have too many bands and masqueraders for the route we've got. We've been trying to see how best we can cope with it."
The parade festivities kick off on July 21, with the Junior Carnival Parade and Family Day performed at Downsview Park for the first time.
The same day, there is also a Canada versus Jamaica Rugby League match.
"People love the fact that it's (the festival) an opportunity to, as we say in the Caribbean, free up, to let loose, to let go. Not to be so constrained," adds Lewis. "Everyone feeling that freedom and relaxing with one another, whether they be Canadian, Grenadian, Barbadian, Jamaican, they get together and enjoy themselves."
Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival runs from July 17-Aug. 12. Visit torontocaribbeancarnival.com