By Lincoln DePradine
Victory always leaves a sweet taste, even when you are an ace mas’ band leader like Louis Saldenah, who now has captured 19 “Band of the Year” titles at the Toronto carnival.
“It’s always great to win,’’ Trinidad-born Saldenah told the Caribbean Camera. “It’s great for the volunteers, the workers, the section leaders, the deejays and everybody else. It’s very good for the whole team.’’
Saldenah, popularly known as Sally, portraying “Wonders of Spring’’ at last Saturday’s Grand Parade at the Peeks Toronto Caribbean Carnival, captured the imagination of spectators along Lake Shore Boulevard and won the approval of the judges at Exhibition Place. His band comprised 4,900 masqueraders.
“L.O.V.E.’’, a presentation of Carnival Nationz, led by Marcus Eustace and Bryce Aguiton, placed second in the “Band of the Year” competition.
Third was Tribal Carnival’s Wonderland led by Dexter Seusahai.
The carnival, which was inaugurated in 1967 under the name “Caribana’’, attracts more than a million tourists to Toronto. The city also generates an estimated $400 million from the four-week festival.
The Festival Management Committee (FMC), the producer of the carnival, received a grant of $625,000 from the City of Toronto for this year’s festival. Councillor Michael Thompson, chair of Toronto’s Economic Development Committee, says the city plans on gifting another million to the carnival.
Saldenah’s 19th “Band of Year” victory on Saturday came one day after Pan Fantasy won its seventh consecutive Toronto Pan Alive steelbands’ competition. Pan Fantasy’s rendition of “Hulk’’, arranged by Al Foster, edged Pan Masters into second position with Rudo Forteau’s arrangement of Superblue’s 1991 Road March, “Get Something and Wave’’.
Saldenah graded this year’s parade with a “seven’ out of ten, ” saying one of the issues to be resolved on carnival day is getting food to masqueraders ” in a more timely manner.”
The parade was highly rated by most attending the event. “You see every flag from every country and everybody can get along,’’ said Cheryl Davey.
Brooklyn resident Robin, who spent most of the parade with Afro Pan steelband, said masqueraders are able to parade with much more ease in Toronto than they do at Labor Day in New York.
Chris Alexander, FMC’s chief administrative officer, agreed that “overall’’, Toronto experienced a “good’’ 2018 Grand Parade. “We had one or two challenges as always; but, overall, the parade was good,’’ Alexander said in an interview on Tuesday.
The masquerade bands, he said, did “an amazing job’’, with all but two deciding not to be included for judging in the Band of the Year competition.
“The quality of the mas’ has improved tremendously,’’ said Alexander. “Most of the bands had lots more masqueraders than they normally would have.’’
Over the years, parade organizers have instituted measures, including putting up higher fences, to prevent spectator interference in the mas’ bands.
However, the spectator problem has persisted, with some using cutters and other tools to breach fences, said Alexander. He added that some paying clients on the grounds of Exhibition Place also climb barriers, infiltrating bands and storming the stage.
At one point, according to Alexander, the situation “became overwhelming’’, with even the VIP booth being overrun by intruding spectators.
Alexander said preventing spectator interference with the carnival is an “ongoing discussion’’ that will continue at the FMC.
He suggested that there should be an “education’’ component to teach people that they are not “entitled’’ to join a band, even if they purchase a ticket to the Grand Parade.
“They must be reminded that they are allowed in a band and on the stage only with the purchase of a costume,’’ Alexander said.