Toronto’s Caribbean Carnival a celebration of culture

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16,000 participants took to the streets Saturday in array of colour, sequins and masks, Toronto’s Star reports.

Channelling a protector of the Amazon rainforest, Melissa Perry spun before the judges with a wide smile on her face, the sparkling butterfly wings on her costume towering over her.

After her came Evans Murphy, a vast toothy piranha above his head.

Seeing the young masqueraders — these two were the junior queen and king of the Toronto Revellers band — proudly celebrating their culture among the estimated 16,000 participants is what makes the Caribbean Carnival so “monumental” in Toronto, said Tashia Antoine.

“There is a feeling of pride, to see them enjoying themselves and understanding and connecting with their own culture in a society that does not represent them in the mainstream,” she said after her turn in the Blue Morpho section of the band’s Amazon-themed display. “To see they love their culture, that is great.”

Antoine, the niece of mas veteran Arnold Hughes, said she has been participating in the carnival since before she could walk.

It is important that the history of the carnival be passed on, she said. It is a celebration of freedom from slavery, she said, and a time to bring everyone together.

In a nod to that history, two dancers held Black Lives Matter signs as they performed.

Antoinette Bain and Cynthia Jack arrived early to get a prime viewing spot in the stands.

“I’m jealous,” Bain laughed. “I want to be there with them.”

They both said the music, the costumes and the carnival atmosphere makes them feel closer to Trinidad, though they lament the fences separating spectators from the parade reduced the street-party feel.

It’s the intricately crafted costumes that they particularly loved, this year featuring lion heads, elaborate fishes and huge feathery fans glittering in the sunshine.

For Charlotte Siegel, sitting with her mother Pearl John-Siegal, it’s the music that makes the carnival so amazing. She did not participate this year — her sister did — but she has in the past.

“Everyone knows all the words to the song because they are played over and over. And still every time we heard them, it amps us up,” she said.

Her mother, who has passed on her love of carnival to her daughters, said it’s an event where everyone comes together.

“It doesn’t matter your skin tone, it doesn’t matter your colour. You just come to have a good time.”

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