Get ready for the pomp and pageantry of the summer known as CARNIVAL time! It's a three-week long festival that celebrates Caribbean culture with many great events, foods, exhibitions, and of course the music! A real feast for all of your senses!
When I was younger my parents took me to the parade (known previously as Caribana) and I immediately fell in love with the steel pan music that flowed through the streets of downtown Toronto and seeing everyone dancing in colourful costumes under the sunshine filled skies - it's really a fun time in the city!
Since then, the parade has grown leaps and bounds with revellers from across North America and the Islands who come and dance along the Lakeshore. Carnival is celebrating it's 45th anniversary this year! And last year, there were an estimated 1 million people over the course of the 8 hour parade - and, by the way, not everyone stays for the entire parade and not everyone shows up at the 10:00 am start time.
There are 16 Toronto MAS Band Association Bands in the parade competing for top band awards. There will be another 16 "guest" bands that travel the parade route but are not judged. Those guest bands range from the police, to Scotiabank employees, to young liberals and young PCs.
Each band works hard all year and incorporate themes. This year, be on the look out for Life on the Amazon and the Jungles of Brazil, costumes of Bollywood movies, and Fairies and Wood Spirits found in the enchanted forest just to name a few!
The JUNIOR PARADE focuses on younger participants while the GRAND PARADE has adults of all ages participating including seniors in their 80s playing mas!
If you're thinking of heading down to the GRAND Parade one of the best places to view is near the review stand on the Ontario Place's parking lot. These are pay seats. The best free spots are along Lakeshore on the hill in front of the Better Living Centre (CNE) according to my contact with the organizers.
What's there to eat? There are about 300 different food vendors selling mostly Caribbean foods, drinks and ice cream of course!
If you're interested in this amazing cultural event in the city here are some tips & recommendations for families to enjoy a taste of the Caribbean ....
JUNIOR CARNIVAL & FAMILY DAY Saturday July 21, 11am-2pm, at Downsview Park, Free admission.
Perfect to bring the kids to check out the younger parade revelers. Over 2000 children in mas costumes are expected to take part in this year's Junior Parade making it the largest of it's kind in North America.
There is a competition to see who will be crowned both Junior King and Junior Queen. There will also be singers, dancers and steel pan performances. Following the parade is a celebration of Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago's 50th's anniversary.
Saturday, August 4 at Exhibition Place and Lakeshore Blvd, free & paid seats available.
8 hours of loud music, dancing and celebrating! Rain or shine!
Tips: Dress accordingly, wear comfortable shoes, and sunscreen! It's always hot! It's a slow moving parade so be patient. It moves on island time...you know "soon come". On average the travel rate of one band is 1 km/hour. We usually go closer to noon time, stay for a couple of hours and have lunch with the kids. Families usually don't stay later. Look for fresh young coconut drinks (right out of the coconuts!), rotis, fried plaintain, and my favourite jerk pork - if you can find The Real Jerk, Mr. Jerk, Island Foods or Albert's Real Jamaican food trucks they are our favourites. Try Sour Sop or Grape Nuts ice cream! The kids will like trying kola champagne and sweet tamarind balls.
ROM CULTURAL EXHIBITION
CARNIVAL: EMANCIPATION TO CELEBRATION
Opens Saturday, July 28, 2012 to February 24, 2012, at the Royal Ontario Museum, included in the general price of admission.
A unique collection displaying the historical and cultural significance of CARNIVAL in Toronto and from around the world.
The ROM will also host Jumpin' at the ROM on Sunday, July 29th inviting families to join in the Carnival experience with mask making, steel pans, storytelling and their own parade. Visit the website for the day's schedule at www.rom.on.ca .
There are many other great events during the Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival please visit the official website at www.torontocaribbeancarnival.com
A big shout out to Natalie and the Sunset Mas with the Toronto Revellers! We'll be looking out for your amazing costumes!