Toronto Carnival Unveils New Costume Rules, Boosts Education with TDSB Partnership

Mischka Crichton, Adrian Charles and Jennifer Hirlehey

The Toronto Caribbean Carnival is gearing up for a transformative 2024 season with newly introduced costume size restrictions and an enhanced educational initiative, in partnership with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). This strategic update was announced by Jennifer Michelle Hirlehey, Chair of the Festival Management Committee (FMC), and CEO Mischka Crichton.

For the Adult King and Queen of the Bands showcase, participants will now face costume limitations of 20 feet in both height and width. The Junior King and Queen of the Bands will have smaller size restrictions, with costumes not exceeding 14 feet in height and 12 feet in width. These new guidelines aim to ensure safety and fairness in competition, with potential penalties for breaches, including point deductions.

Jennifer Hirlehey

Retaining its commitment to inclusivity in the carnival, the FMC has maintained traditional band size categories: small bands require a minimum of 150 participants, medium bands over 300, and large bands exceeding 750. The children’s segment remains stable with a minimum of 40 participants.

A pivotal development this year is the FMC’s collaboration with the TDSB to bring Caribbean cultural education into schools. This partnership will facilitate a range of programs that include teaching steel pan music, mas making, calypso, songwriting, and dance. Additionally, the curriculum will cover the rich heritage and history of Caribbean Canadians. “This partnership is crucial as it allows us to integrate the vibrant essence of Caribbean culture into the educational narrative, enriching the multicultural mosaic of Canada,” stated CEO Crichton.

Mischka Crichton with logo

This educational initiative aligns with the recent mandate by Ontario to include Black history in the school curriculum. The FMC is actively involved in discussions and proposals to ensure that Caribbean history is adequately represented, reflecting the community’s significant contributions to Canadian society.

Moreover, the FMC is enhancing its academic engagement by hosting a business case study conference at York University. This event will examine the carnival’s economic and cultural impacts, providing valuable insights for students and entrepreneurs. The ongoing Building Black Entrepreneurship program will also continue, aimed at nurturing business acumen within the community.

As the carnival preparations advance, there is a strong focus on diversifying the judging panel for this year’s events. “Our goal is to mirror the diverse cultural fabric of Toronto and Canada in our judging panel, enriching the carnival experience for everyone involved,” explained Hirlehey.

Ticket sales for the carnival have already commenced, with early bird specials available until May 31st. This year, the FMC is dedicating special attention to the King and Queen showcase, promising an exceptional production that highlights the artistic creativity and cultural significance of the carnival.

In terms of funding, the FMC has been proactive in securing support from various levels of government and private sponsors. “Since last year, we have been strengthening relationships and advocating for more substantial support. We are optimistic about the increased backing from our sponsors and government bodies,” Hirlehey added.

With these developments, the Toronto Caribbean Carnival is set not only to celebrate the exuberant Caribbean culture but also to embed it deeply into Canada’s educational and cultural landscapes. The festival’s impact is poised to extend beyond the summer festivities, fostering a greater appreciation and understanding of Caribbean heritage across Canadian communities.