A carnival broke out at the Toronto Raptors game

By Stephen Weir

Pan Fantasy on the floor

Ho Hum, the Raptors won. But what made last Thursday’s game a never-forget – experience was the playing of the national anthems Caribbean style and a wild Soca half-time show!

For the first time ever the NBA Raptors held a Caribbean Heritage Night at a hometown game. Carnival cocktails. Caribbean food. Of course, female dancers in Mas Costumes. Pan Fantasy on the steel pans and direct from Trinidad, soca star Patrice Roberts!

 “Our Caribbean Heritage Night was a way to celebrate the various cultures of the Caribbean diaspora, as a part of our commitment to supporting the Black community,” said the Raptor management.

Carnival at the game

“It is important to recognize that many members of the Black community in Toronto and across Canada migrated from the Caribbean or are of Caribbean descent. We would like to share and spread the warmth, vibrance, and energy of the Caribbean with our fans.”

The Arena was decorated Carnival style. A special poster designed by Jamaican Canadian Troydel Wallace was everywhere and the Raptor staff wore T-shirts bearing images from the poster.

As the fans entered the indoor stadium, they were met by Moko Jumbies on stilts and the sound of the Pan Fantasy steel orchestra.

“Big Up for my team Pan Fantasy for a job well done, I am always proud of them,” band leader Wendy Jones told the Caribbean Camera. “We didn’t go to Trinidad for Carnival, but it sure felt like it in the Bowl”

Patrice Roberts in action

Pan Fantasy was busy performing before the game and throughout the intermission. They played both the US and Canadian anthems, and several Caribbean songs including Black Man Feeling To Party by the late Black Stalin, and Celia Cruz’s “La Vida Es Un Carnaval”.

“We were very excited; we do wish the full band could have performed. We had 18 players with 12 on the court” she continued.” Much Thanks to the Toronto Revellers (NBA’s Jamaal Magloire’s Mas Band) who supplied the Raptor cheerleaders with some of their Mas costumes.”

The big hit of the half-time was a six-minute performance by Trinidad singer Patrice Roberts. She is the first female Soca singer to perform at a Raptors’ game and, according to her “it felt surreal.” She went on to say I was extremely nervous because I wanted to give my best and represent well for Soca, Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean”.

“Grab your rag and wave your flag” urged the Raptors ushers. Ticket holders were given “flags” bearing both the logos of the team and the islands of St Vincent and the Grenadine, and when Patrice started to sing, the “rags” they were indeed spinning. She sang a medley of her hits including Mind My Business, Band of the Year and Like Yuh Self.

The Raptors haven’t announced if they will have another Caribbean Night at the Scotiabank Arena anytime soon.  But, if they do, both Pan Fantasy and Patrice Roberts are ready to do it all again for the fans.

By the way Toronto Raptors squeaked by The New Orleans Pelicans by a score of 115 to 110.