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Caribana Has Kicked Off

In August of last year, we blogged about the enormous impact that Toronto’s annual Caribana Festival had on the city’s financial situation. Even during the recession, the event that celebrates Caribbean culture, brought upwards of 1.2 million people to Lakeshore Boulevard for the parade and nearly $350 million dollars into the city’s economy.

Well, Caribana is back! And for many Torontonians, it marks the most joyous occasion of the summer. Officially launching yesterday, Caribana is now in its 43rd year. As Brendan Kennedy of The Toronto Star reported after the launch, it is an event that many members of Toronto’s Caribbean community refuse to miss.

Christina McCollin is one of them, writes Kennedy. She “hasn’t missed a Caribana since she moved to Toronto from Trinidad in 1972 (as) the annual festival is a chance to go home without ever leaving the city.” In addition to showcasing the wonderful food and music of the West Indian islands, Caribana is also a competition amongst bands.

These bands work tirelessly for months creating the most elaborate costumes for their revellers to wear during the Caribana parade, which is set for July 31st this year. One of the band leaders, in fact, is very well known by sports fans.

NBA centre, Jamaal Magloire is a Toronto native as well as the leader of a band known as Toronto Revellers. Yesterday, McCollin – who plays with Magloire’s band – took part in the opening cermonies for Caribana at the kick-off at Yonge-Dundas Square. “I love it – all of it. Everything from home is here,” she said.

Toronto’s hot weather, as of late, goes just perfectly with the Caribana Festival. According to many Caribbean revellers, it provides a little taste of home. Said Nigel Joseph, head of Separate Tables caterers: “With this type of weather, you can really pretend you’re on the islands. Caribana’s about beautiful women, delicious food, great music – it’s what Toronto needs right now.”

Margaret Best is the MPP of the Scarborough-Guildwood community. Originally from Jamaica, Best sees Caribana as ““a gift to the people of Canada on its centennial.” Said Best: “Like an orchid transplanted from its native tropical roots, Caribana has taken root here in Ontario and it has certainly flourished. And it all began 43 years ago with the sound of a steel drum on a Toronto street.”

One of Caribana’s most popular events is the King and Queen Show which takes place at Lamport Stadium just two days before the parade. At this event, the illustrious costumes created by each of the bands will be in competition with each other to crown the king and queen of Caribana. For more information on this year’s festival, check out www.caribanafestival.com.

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