Little Party That Grew Into Caribbean Carnival Celebrates 50th Anniversary


Friday, Jul 14 07:32 AM
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Carnival has grown into a multimillion-dollar event that has solidified itself as one of Toronto’s major cultural attractions.

When Louis Saldenah first took part in the Caribbean Carnival in 1977, his band had less than 100 members.

Today, he’s the band leader of Celebration Time, the largest band in the festival, with more than 4,200 masqueraders.

“When we started, we had 98 people play mas with us,” Saldenah said.

Since its inception in 1967 as part of Canada’s centennial birthday, the Caribbean Carnival has grown into a multimillion-dollar event that has solidified itself as one of Toronto’s major cultural attractions.

The carnival had its humble beginning on Aug. 5, 1967, when about 50,000 people came out to celebrate, and the budget was $50,000.

With the festival celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, it now boasts itself as Canada’s largest cultural celebration and North America’s largest outdoor festival. They say they draw more than one million people each year, with a budget of more than $2 million.

About 10,000 masqueraders and 11 bands are expected to participate in the parade this year, which will take place Aug. 5, said parade manager Gerard Weekes.

The parade will start at 8:30 a.m., Weekes said, and will put “a sea of costumes onto the Lake Shore.”

Scotiabank stopped sponsoring the carnival last year, said Weekes, and the festival has since found a new sponsor in Peeks, a social media and tech company based in Toronto.

“Peeks has Caribbean parentage,” Weekes said, referring to the Toronto-born CEO Mark Itwaru’s Guyanese background.

Weekes hopes that Peeks will collaborate with the festival for the next five years.

Dozens of people gathered under the glaring sun Tuesday in Nathan Phillips Square for the launch of the carnival. The crowd got a taste of the upcoming festivities as spectators hid in the shade under colourful umbrellas and watched as costumed performers took the stage wearing brightly decorated attire with feathers and sequins, dancing to a mix of upbeat music.

“The Caribbean Carnival puts us on the map year after year after year,” Mayor John Tory said of the event once known as Caribana.

Thousands of people come from throughout North America and even the Caribbean every year, he said, “which I consider to be the ultimate compliment.”

Ward 21 Councillor Joe Mihevc agreed, praising the festival for its celebration of diversity and for its massive economic and cultural impact on the city.

“Something amazing has happened in this city in the last five decades,” Mihevc said. “The event that started as a one-time gift from Toronto’s Caribbean community to Canada for its 100th birthday has become one of the most anticipated events of the summer.”

The Star has previously reported that the carnival has brought in about $480 million in revenue during past years.

The grand parade starts at the Exhibition grounds, but many other events, including the brand new Junior King and Queen Showcase, and a number of art shows and exhibits, will take place during the next three weeks.

 

Source : News


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