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Monday, October 3, 2022

‘On the Road Again,’ Caribbean Carnival Grand Parade returns to Toronto. Here is what you need to know

The Sights and Sounds of the Caribbean will take over the exhibition space today as the Caribbean Carnival’s grand parade returns to Toronto.

“We’re excited to be able to be back on ‘The Road’,” Laverne Garcia, president of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival Board, told CP24.com.

After a two-year pandemic hiatus, the 55th anniversary of the parade promises to be one of the biggest, with over 10,000 masked attendees expected.

For those who’ve never been to a parade, CP24.com has the answers you need about when and where the parade is, what it represents, and what it means to “play mass.”

What is the origin of the parade?

The Caribbean Carnival is a celebration celebrated in Trinidad and Tobago in the late 18th century that marked the end of slavery and freedom for plantation workers of African descent.

People took to the streets to celebrate their newfound independence, imitating what they saw at pre-Lenten masquerade balls and parties thrown by their former masters.

“So when they would have these balls, eventually it led to rebellion and freedom and liberation. But they would gather in the streets and celebrate parallels of their kind, but in the streets,” García said.

Fast forward to 1967 and when Toronto hosted its first grand parade, which would become one of the largest outdoor festivals in North America.

The parade is held annually during the long weekend of August, also recognized as Canada’s Emancipation Day weekend.

The parade was gifted to Canada by the Caribbean community during the country’s centenary celebrations.

Garcia says it’s a wonderful feeling to once again celebrate Carnival in person.

“After two and a half years of lockdown and mandates for people to isolate and not stay in the community, it is amazing to see people coming out again and being so excited to take part in the carnival,” Garcia said.

“It’s interesting to me how Toronto has really embraced Carnival. And for a lot of people, it’s a part of what summer means to them in Toronto,” she added.

Who takes part in the parade?

To march in the parade, which extends along Lake Shore Boulevard West, revelers must join a participating “mass” band.

“These bands are applied to us, they get approved, and then they get seed funding from us. And then they go ahead and they start their mass camp, where they usually find a commercial property for the summer… and they build their costumes there,” García said.

Bands usually start preparing for the carnival a year in advance.

“I want to say they’re like little families because people spend countless hours there, making costumes, getting ready for all the fun to come,” Garcia said.

Each band consists of several sections, and each section has its own theme that is tied to the overall theme of the band.

Band members represent their subject through their costumes and floats.

When it comes time to participate in the parade, it is also known as the “Playing Mass”.

Garcia said, “When you’re playing Mass, the average mirage, they’re going down the street they’re playing, they’re jumping, they’re dancing to the music, and they’re just enjoying, Garcia said.

What do the costumes represent?

Many spectators go to the parade to see a beautiful array of costumes and floats.

When the parade first began in Trinidad and Tobago, masked men wore costumes that represented a political statement.

“There are certain characters that used to be portrayed, and they were like caricatures or, you know, political satires on the social environment and sociopolitical environment of the time,” García said.

“As the carnival evolved, and as time went on, it became more about the freedom of the individual and not being held back by the constraints of society … I think that’s why there are so many costumes that Being really open and embracing yourself, your body and freedom and liberation is a huge push,” she added.

Each band works hours and hours into designing and creating the costumes for the grand parade.

Tribal Carnival is the third largest band in Toronto and has over 100 masquerades.

CEO Selena Seusahai says the band’s theme this year is Kingdom and that all sections of the band will have costumes that reflect it.

“This year my section is called Emerald City… you’ll see green and blue,” she told CP24.com.

Selena Seshai

Seshai says that the band only uses Toronto-based designers and they begin production on their costumes in May.

“It takes a lot of work and we put in a lot of research, hours and hours of research to make sure that the subject we’re drawing comes out correctly. I would say the design process, we start in December. Like It’s when one carnival ends we start planning the next.”

Seshai says costumes can cost between $350 and $1,600.

What can parade attendees expect?

If you’re joining the parade for the first time, prepare to “jump in” and dance the day away.

Bands will make their way into the exhibition grounds with masks dancing at soca, dance halls and more, waving flags representing their native land or heritage.

Spectators are also encouraged to dance and bring their own flags to the parade.

“Whatever it is, just represent where you are from. And that is also a part of it, because it has a lot to do with positivity as well,” Garcia said.

“Fifty years ago, our attitude towards multiculturalism was not the same and we celebrate our culture from where we are.”

Caribbean Carnival

The parade also has a competition component. The bands will compete for the title of Band of the Year.

“So you’ve got your costume, you’re playing Mass, you’re dancing in the street, and then you’ve got to go on stage and show all your hard work. And the judges are the creativity, the impact and the different things, different- Will judge on a different category basis. And then a band will be crowned Band of the Year,” Garcia said.

Winners will be able to choose when they will take the stage at next year’s grand parade.

When and where is the parade?

The opening ceremonies are scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. at the exhibition venue Grounds and Hotel X, and the parade is expected to begin at 10 a.m. and continue until 6 p.m.

This year the route of the parade is different as compared to last year.

There will be two starting points – some bands will walk the parade route first, while others cross the main stage, which will be decided first.

Masquerades will run along Lake Shore Boulevard west through the exhibition space grounds.

“It’s all off. It’s really just the masked people who are in the parade. Every year, people try to join the parade just to be a part of it. But you really have to be in a mass band to join the parade.” Gotta get involved,” Garcia said.

Caribbean Carnival

Attendees can watch the parade from Lake Shore Boulevard or you can pay an entrance fee to the exhibition grounds to view it from there.

On the banks of Lake Shore there will be many vendors selling food and drinks throughout the day.

Garcia encourages attendees to wear comfortable shoes and to let loose and dress up to celebrate.

“One should have comfortable shoes and lots of water. And, I think the spirit has freedom and a desire to have a lot of fun. ,

World Nation News Desk
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