By Stephen Weir
OK break out the roti, fire up the air horn, put on the beads and glitter; it is Carnival time in Toronto. Last Tuesday, the organizer of the annual Toronto Caribbean Carnival held a loud fun kick-off to their 52nd year with a press conference at the lakeside Boulevard Yacht Club.
While Mas models paraded in costume and steel pan players performed, 30 or so Toronto media came into the club’s ballroom to hear what is new and different about the summer festival which begins in just 42 days. In 2019 the festival runs from July 9th to August 3rd.
Facing the media were six speakers, ready to talk about all aspects of the festival. So what was said? Stay the course.
There are eight official events this year; one new event has been added and two smaller have been removed since last year’s carnival. The annual gala is being brought back and updated. The opening and closing church services are no longer listed on the festival media hand out card.
Carnival has traditionally held a black-tie gala in Exhibition Place, but did not stage one in 2018. This year the gala is being replaced by Beyond The Mas, a less formal, less expensive, costume heavy party which will be held at the Riviera Ballroom in Vaughan, north of the city, the evening of July 26th.
“Experience the magic and thrill of masquerade”, said festival executive Denise Herrera-Jackson. “Come see the costumes as Ole Time Carnival is performed. Music is by Ossie Gurley, one of the writers of the song Who Let The Dogs Out!”
Other changes? According to COO Chris Alexander, the Junior King and Queen Showcases will be held this year “outdoors at the Malvern Town Centre shopping mall on July 14th and the junior parade six days later.” Last year the popular Kiddies large costume show was held at the Woodbine Mall in north Etobicoke.
Chris Alexander spoke about the changes and upgrades to the parade on August 3rd. The parade is longer, will be louder with more pan groups and non-competing bands!
The bands will present themselves in this order: guess bands, competitive bands, noncompetitive bands, and steelbands will round off the parade. The bands will leave Exhibition Place, go westbound on the Lakeshore for about two kilometres before turning and coming back eastbound on the lake Shore back to exhibition place to be judged. The first Band should be arriving at the judge’s stage at about 11:30.for this expanded route of 8 kilometers total.
There will be six zones for spectators and masqueraders, one of which will be a paid area in close proximity to the judging area.
The addition of the non-competing bands will add significantly to the size of the parade and the running time of the daylong event. According to bandleader Brittany Dardaine, The Dream Carnival, a new non-profit Internet based Toronto band has already sold out of costumes. With five sections, Dream will have 1,500 revellers taking part in the non-competitive grouping of the parade.
Atlantic Mas, who recently had Machel Montano singing at their costume launch, hope to have 5,000 revellers on the parade route. Atlantic is also a non-competing band.
Michael Williams has been fielding competitive mas bands since the early seventies. This year his D’Regulars will instead be a non-competitive band and is eschewing the skimpy costumes that most bands are promoting this year. “We are putting dignity into our designs,” he told the Camera. “We are a “Big People” mas band and are making costumes that people of all sizes will be comfortable to go down the road in.”
D’Regulars band will launch on the 30th June in Scarborough’s Spade Night Club. In addition to running the Mas Band, Michael Williams is the new Parade Liaison Manager for the Festival. He replaces Trinidad citizen Gerard Weekes who apparently has left his employment in the carnival offices and returned to Trinidad.
There was much talk from the stage from Chris Alexander about security and again another call to attendees to not storm the parade route and leave their weapons at home. It was a chilling statement, but given what has been happening at large outdoor events in North America and Caribbean, probably a very timely warning.
The Toronto Caribbean Carnival introduced Nadelle Lewis and Joel Davis as the winners of 2019 “Face of the Festival” contest. This was a contest started by #everyBODYplayamas movement to encourage full-figured men and women to play mas during carnival. The movement has broken down barriers to change public perception, while projecting a positive self-image for all during the masquerade experience.
Davis, also known as “Connector” was named – Canada’s Calypso Monarch by the Organization of Calypso Performing Artists.
This year nothing was said about title sponsorship. Last year the adult content app Peeks Social was the title sponsor, but is not a sponsor in 2019. No official reason was given why Peeks’s owner Guyanese Canadian Mark Itwatu is no longer a spencer. Another 2018 sponsor, the Toronto Star, is also not on board in 2019.
It was noteworthy, commented Anthony Joseph, the Caribbean Camera publisher, that television media and the mainstream press were out in numbers, but it seemed that of the community media only this paper covered the launch.
Considering that at this time there is no sponsorship funding, little or no advertising support, and an apparent indifferent Caribbean Canadian media, the Festival is in need of a “white knight” – be it government, private donors or by a company looking to increase its exposure in front of the million spectators the festival predicts will be in Toronto for carnival.
#Toronto Caribbean Carnival#Caribbean Carnival#Caribbean people#Caribbean Mas players#Peeks out#