Spirits high despite rain at Toronto Caribbean Carnival Grande Parade

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A report from Toronto’s Metro.

What’s a little rain compared to the high spirits of thousands of colourfully-clad masqueraders?

 

Not much, as Toronto discovered Saturday at the annual Caribbean Carnival Grande Parade.

Thousands took part in Saturday’s parade, from Toronto locals to travellers coming from as far away as Alabama, Montreal, and everywhere in between.

They all shared ample enthusiasm for celebrating Caribbean culture.

“The great thing about Carnival is that there’s no judgment,” Kimberly King said, pointing out that the purpose of coming to the Grande Parade, for many, is to simply dance and celebrate.

King and her friends drove from Washington, DC on Friday. They had to sort out a couple of costume mishaps, but neither that, nor the prospect of rain dampened their spirits.

She said they made the decision to come to the event because Washington no longer hosts its own version of Caribbean Carnival.

Some took the opportunity to advocate for equity. The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) members, passed out small “Black Lives Matter” signs to participants.

“It’s an opportunity for the community to come together,” Kayla Beckford, a participant from Toronto who carried one of the signs, said.

 

Vilma Caceres, who walked with the CUPE group, held a large ‘Equity’ sign while walking in the parade, noting that she did it because she believes in equality for all.

For some, the Caribbean carnival experience is all about tradition. Siobhan Eli, who is from Barbados, said that she attends many such carnivals every year.

This year’s Toronto parade was the very first that she has participated in, rather than watching from the sidelines.

“This year is a different experience because I’m actually involved in the parade,” she said. “I feel more connected, you can enjoy yourself a bit more. You get to shake up and dance!”

Part of what makes Caribbean carnivals so special is that it brings people from different countries and cultures together in celebration, Eli said.

“When each band puts their perspective on what each section is going to be it’s pretty awesome,” she said.

She chose an elaborate costume with yellow, orange and green feathers.

“I figured as a Black woman that yellow would look spectacular,” she said.

Toldis Spence has an even longer relationship with the Grande Parade in Toronto. She moved to Canada from Jamaica 46 years ago, and has been going to the parade every year for the past 30 years.

This year, she brought along some special guests: her four- and five-year-old granddaughters Raven and Blair.

“It’s a good time for family,” Spence said, noting that the young girls had a blast gathering feathers that had fallen from costumes.

Mayor John Tory meets the people.

Toronto mayor John Tory, Premier Kathleen Wynne, Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown and NDP leader Andrea Horvath all took part in the festivities.

Tory tweeted Saturday that he was “delighted to see visitors from around the world come together to celebrate Caribbean culture,” in Toronto.

Inspiration for costume and float design was wide ranging, from Caribbean islands to Canada’s Indigenous culture.

The annual parade is celebrating 50 years in Toronto. Originally it was called ‘Caribana’ and inspired by Trinidad’s annual carnival.

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