Montreal’s Carifiesta’s beat gets Ste-Catherine St. dancing

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A report by Marian Scott for the Montreal Gazette.

Neither a sudden downpour, nor a late start dimmed the spirits of bystanders who lined Ste-Catherine St. W. for the city’s premier Caribbean celebration.

“Even if it starts at midnight, I don’t mind,” said Kenold Simon, 37, as he waited for the Carifiesta parade to start near Fort St.

“If you want to calm down a Haitian, you just play some music,” he said.

“As soon as the music starts, I forget everything.”

His companion Natacha Girard, 47, agreed. “I’m Québécoise and music automatically makes us want to dance,” she said.

Called for noon, the pageant, with its booming drumbeats and gyrating dancers, started 1¼ hours late but no one in the mellow crowd seemed uptight.

Lilly Reyes, 46, and Esther Mateo, 47, from Brooklyn and the Bronx, respectively, made the trip specially from New York.

“Most people go to Toronto but this is more near to New York,” said Reyes, who was attending the Carifesta for the fourth time.

“My favourite music is Caribbean soca music,” she said.

“I love the West Indian culture, although I’m Latina,” she added.

For Roya Safari, 40, waiting on the sidelines with her two children, the parade was an introduction of sorts to Canadian culture.

Safari arrived two weeks ago as an immigrant from Iran.

“We heard of it on Facebook,” she said.

The weather for the 42nd Carifiesta parade from Fort St. to Philips Square was unexpectedly sunny until a drenching cloudburst about 2:20 p.m. But the steel-pan bands and DJs kept playing and dancers decked in feathers and rhinestones were not fazed.

Police did not provide a crowd estimate but organizers were expecting 100,000 spectators.

For Steven Wells, 50, of Point St. Charles, attending the parade is a lifelong tradition instilled by his Bahamian father, who died last August.

“I represent my dad’s country,” said Wells, who displayed a sky blue, yellow and black flag he brought back from the Bahamas last summer.

“It’s fun because all the Caribbean countries are together. Everybody gets along,” he said.

“You’ve got to not miss Jump Up.”

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