Caribbean Carnival is back and Toronto is ready to party

After two years of pandemic-related cancellations, Toronto Caribbean Carnival is back — and the city is ready to party.

Organizers kicked off their month-long programming with an all-day party at Nathan Phillips Square on Thursday, with dancers showcasing their costumes as DJs and steel pan musicians performed.

“There are very few events we have that are so big, and that bring everybody in Toronto together, let alone all the visitors who come,” Mayor Tory told the Star during the event.

“Building back up that sense of community, celebrating each other — because there’s nothing like the Caribbean Carnival that allows us to celebrate the things that other people brought to this country. That’s the essence of what we’re all about here.”

Toronto Caribbean Carnival, unofficially referred to as Caribana, is celebrating its 55th year since its inaugural parade in 1967 as a gift from the Caribbean community to Canada on its centennial birthday. It originated as a celebration of emancipation from slavery from the island of Trinidad and Tobago. Toronto’s festival is of great significance to the Caribbean community in the city and from all over — one in five attendees travel to the festival from outside of Canada.

Festival Manager Mischka Crichton told the Star Carnival is at its root a celebration of freedom and community. “Having the Carnival allowed me to know and participate in my culture,” said Crichton, who is a first-generation Canadian. “I got to engage with this huge Caribbean community that felt like home.”

Outside city hall, dancers swayed to the beat with the music. One masquerade dancer, Winston Godwin, wore a gold rhinestone-encrusted outfit made by Mayjor Mas. “We’ve been locked up for two years, so finally, it’s time we can go outside and actually let our hair down a little bit and have a good time,” he said. Godwin will be marching with the Toronto Revellers, one of 12 bands competing in this year’s Grande Parade on July 30.

Funding for the Carnival programming is provided by the federal government, City of Toronto, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation,

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland told the gathering the federal government is giving $1 million for the Toronto Caribbean Carnival this year. “We are putting our money where our mouth is, guys,” Freeland said.

In past years, the City of Toronto has been the festival’s greatest supporter. This year, Toronto pitched in $600,000. With this new funding, the festival is expanding junior program, Kiddies for Mas, developing an app to go with Carnival, and getting equipment for staging new events.

Toronto Caribbean Carnival will host programs throughout July, leading up to the Grand Parade. There will be two major events in their junior program, Kiddies for Mas: a junior king and queen’s showcase on July 10 at Scarborough Town Centre and a junior parade on July 16 at the Malvern Community Centre.

At Lamport Stadium, the king and queen showcase takes place on July 28 and a steel pan showcase is set for July 29. Festival season culminates with the Grand Parade on July 30 at Exhibition Place Grounds, Hotel X and along Lakeshore Boulevard West.


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By Jon Doe