The Toronto Caribbean Carnival kicked off its 51st year in grand style at Nathan Phillips Square on Tuesday with plans to ramp things up for 2018.
"This year is the year of experience. We're trying to get people to experience the festival more," Chris Alexander, chief administrative officer for the Toronto Caribbean Carnival's Festival Management Committee, told CBC Toronto.
And there will be plenty of opportunities to do so as the festival has a number of big events planned for the following weeks, including the Junior Carnival King and Queen Showcase on Sunday, Calypso Showcase on July 29 and the Grand Parade on Aug. 4.
"Every year we welcome hundreds of thousands of people from across North America to Toronto in celebration of Caribbean heritage," Denise Herrera Jackson, CEO of the Festival Management Committee, said in a media release.
"As the largest outdoor festival in North America we know how to have a good time and encourage people both near and far to join the fun."
That fun included its official launch on Tuesday where the Toronto Mas Bands Association, the Organization of Calypso Performing Artists and the Ontario Steelpan Association brought the sights and sounds of the islands to the city.
And organizers say they're already seeing strong interest.
"A lot of the bands are selling out costumes right now, which is a good sign that more people are planning to play mas," Alexander said. "The hotels are filling up, so obviously we know that people are coming into the city."
Valerie Williamson and Juliana Prospere were at the launch event as traditional mas character Dame Lorraine.
They say they've been representing the history of carnival for three years.
Juliana Prospere, left, and Valerie Williamson, right, were both at the launch event as traditional mas character Dame Lorraine.
"We're just trying to tell the story of carnival, the origins of carnival, to keep it fresh," Prospere said. "We want people to remember that carnival is not the feathers and swimsuits, but there's a story behind it."
Organizers say that this year's theme, "Canada's Celebration of Freedom and Diversity," was inspired by Carnival's beginnings, a celebration of freedom from the oppression of slavery.