Dundas square was Trini to the bone

By Stephen Weir

David Rudder

The roar from Dundas Square Park on Sunday was so loud that one could hear the noise from a block away. A live soccer game on the big screen? Nope. It was the king. King David, to be specific.

Calypso great David Rudder was on the park’s outdoor stage, singing many of his songs that have made Trinidad and Tobago the motherlode of Calypso music for almost a century. King David was just one of the headliners of the past weekend’s Trinbago Festival. The free outdoor fete was a celebration of the culture, history, and impact of the Trinidad & Tobago diaspora in Canada. The event was staged under the auspices of the Trinidad & Tobago Consulate in Toronto and in support of the Caribbean Scholarship Foundation.

Trinidad and Tobago gained its independence from the United Kingdom on August 31, 1962. Last year marked the 60th anniversary, and it was the first time Trinbago was celebrated in downtown Toronto. Would the 61st-anniversary fete bring out the people?

Absolutely. According to a press release issued by the organizers, with no gates and no tickets needed, it was hard to estimate just how many people took in the fun, food, and Caribbean vibe. However, “the event on August 26th and 27th surpassed the anticipated 20,000 guests, with people from across Ontario and Trinidad and Tobago coming to witness a resounding display of culture and community.”

David Rudder wasn’t the only performer in the spotlight. Headliners included soca powerhouses Nadia Batson and Farmer Nappy, chutney soca star KI, and dancehall singer/DJ Agent Sasco, who kept the buzz alive for two straight days. But it wasn’t just singers. Fire Eater Chris Precious left the audience speechless as he inhaled flames, towering Moko Jumbie stilt walkers added to the spectacle, and the ever-popular Dance Caribe group with their infectious energy and beautiful traditional costumes graced the stage.

Saturday afternoon was all about the food. Huge line-ups filled the square as people sampled T&T’s cuisine. Meanwhile, on stage, Mas-costumed models, drummers, and former Calypso Monarch Joel Davis (Connector) kept the lunchtime audience entertained. After he left the stage, Caribbean Airlines’ Nazie Mohammed checked the audience’s giveaway rags for the lucky number (a ticket to anywhere Caribbean Airlines flies).

The festival was attended by the Mayor of Toronto, Olivia Chow, who delivered a heartfelt speech celebrating the rich tapestry of diversity that Toronto represents. “There is something about this city of ours,” said Mayor Chow, “it doesn’t matter where we are from, what color our skin is, who we are, money or no money, it doesn’t matter. We feel we belong here; this is our city. We can party together, share food, and share our love for our city together.”

As the final evening came to a close, organizers, staff, and volunteers joined performers on stage for one final celebration together. Waving the flag of Trinidad and Tobago, guests waved their flags back; the collective sentiment was one of community and belonging. Organizer Petronilla Marchan thanked the capacity crowd for coming out and urged them to make sure they come back next year!

Photos by Anthony Berot