The Parade: Time to go back to the drawing board

Mas is crushed on the way to being judged by spectators.

This year marked the 52rd time the Toronto Caribbean Carnival/Caribana grand masquerade (parade) pranced along one of Toronto’s famous boulevards.

Before proceeding we wish to assert that the use of the word “Caribana” is not an attempt to stir up controversy that has dogged the festival regarding its ownership. We are quite aware that the festival is managed by the Festival Management Committee ( FMC) for the past 13 years and the name Caribana was changed at that time.

But a name’s a stubborn thing; almost all of the international visitors the Carnival brings to Toronto year after year still call it Caribana. That, we add, is the same for the locals, especially of a certain vintage. The FMC ought not take it personally; after all, people the world over still call all vacuum cleaners Hoovers, the brand name of the company that was the first to mass produce the new invention. In any case we’re now speaking of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival under the management of the FMC.

Over 52 years the parade has traversed Yonge St, University Ave, and has settled on Lakeshore Boulevard since 1991. For the majority of those years, the grand parade has been a great deal of fun, a place to rekindle old friendships, and a source of fond memories.

We know that this classic Caribbean celebration is intended to be as freewheeling as possible in keeping with the history of all Carnivals around the world. Therefore, there is always room for mistakes and the odd hiccup. So, in general, the show has earned both kudos and criticisms, fair or not. That cannot be avoided. The point is that Caribbean folk all over the world still look forward to the party year after year. That is why we say, reluctantly, that the 2019 parade must go down as the most disappointing so far.

We at The Caribbean Camera have been staunch supporter of “our Carnival”, and have witnessed and covered all of them from the day we began publishing. Our camera(wo)men and reporters have walked everywhere on the parade route. We spoke to many who witnessed the parade, both foreign and local, and to a person the verdict was the same: having to wait for over three hours to see the next band after three small bands had passed points to a signal failure.

We heard that one band went the wrong way on the parade route, thereby blocking the passage of the other bands that were wending their way to the stadium to be judged. We’re aware that hundreds of spectators stormed the bands on the street, grinding progress to a halt. We know that the parade organizers have struggled over the years to bring order to the streets without putting too many constraints on those who want to chip and jump.

Yes, the parade management has tried mightily every year to make this Caribbean gem glow as it should, but this year’s performance has devalued that gem. The management must admit to this fiasco and marshal its resources to get it right the next time.

The Caribbean folk who take pride in their annual “emancipation parade”, the City of Toronto that rightfully boast about this annual spectacle, and the visitors who flock to our shores on cue deserve better.

What happened in August 2019 must not be repeated.