Toronto Carnival: The kids got it right

By Herman Silochan


Who should be congratulated for Saturday’s superb Caribbean Children’s Carnival at Downsview Park? The Festival Management Committee? The Mas Band Leaders? The parents? What about the children themselves? Well, being there, and chatting up the organizers, many parents and some children, I’d have to say all four groups. And then, there was the sunshine.

Something came together seamlessly, even as everyone was having fun. This bodes well for the future of the festival if all parties can sustain a decade of momentum in commitment and involvement. Bear in mind that these children’s ages range from toddlers to late teens.

As one childhood educator, who is also a costume builder, told me, if there is a free emotional investment by this body of young people, we can see results down the line. She makes sense.

In this “new” Downsview phase of our children’s carnival, perhaps more than any group that showed a solid commitment were the Band Leaders themselves. It was they who brought the immediate resources to the young players, encouraging participation in costume construction, introducing them to the culture of street dance, and that soon they will take lead roles. All the bands, with parental input, held group dance classes in the previous month. Their enthusiasm was on full display as they did their choreograph routines in front of the judges.

Almost all the parents involved are working professionals, with a modern understanding of the totality of a child’s education. Of course, pride in one’s culture is the base upon which these festivals thrive.

Here are some quotes- Stephen Weir, PR for the festival over the past 14 years: “This is the second year that the Children’s Parade has been held at the Downsview Park and this year was the absolute best of all, including when we were on Jane Street, we were on the road, but a road that traffic cannot travel on. The most heartening thing?The number of friends and family who came out to support the children.”

Denise Hererra-Jackson, FMC CEO: “This Junior Carnival and Family Day gives our children their day in the sun, we have to thank parents and guardians as well as the Mas Bands, the Ontario Steelpan Association and Organization for Calypso Performing Artists for providing avenues.”

Dr. Rita Cox, board member of the FMC, “This was a special day where the young mas players, the calypso singers, drummers, dancers showed they were very capable, a fun filled celebration of our cultural heritage.”

Denise Shepherd, mother of three children, a professional childhood educator, and costume designer with the Fusion band group: “We saw on Saturday a lot more parental involvement, everything children oriented, it was not above their heads, they could comprehend what it was all about, let’s see more of this in the future.”

Jackie Ford, a veteran costume designer, now with the Revellers band group, “The skill and dedication of the children was very much there, it reaffirms that the future of mas is in good hands, we must insure that their emotional investment in the creation of costumes be recognized and rewarded.”

These statements reaffirm my own observation, especially with breathless conversations I had with those youthful masqueraders; their enthusiasm on Saturday was putting a best foot forward, supporting those fine headpieces that could rival those of the adult players.

What the organizers have to work on in the coming years is getting a bigger spectator audience. I daresay, it has the potential of rivalling Lakeshore if done right.