Presenting: CARIBANA – Toronto’s Huge Caribbean Cultural Festival

I had a chance to talk with John Kam, Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors, about one of Toronto’s greatest special events and tourist attractions: Caribana, the city’s hugely popular and internationally renowned festival of Caribbean culture which is scheduled this year for July 15 to August 1, 2005.

1.Please tell us about Caribana – what type of festival is it?

CARIBANA™ is a two-week festival of Caribbean culture that includes a great variety of events, here are just a selected few: from a media launch on June 23, to the popular Children’s Carnival on July 16, a Calypso-Soca Forum on July 16, an Interfaith Service on July 17 at the St. James Cathedral, the King & Queen Extravaganza on July 28, to the big CARIBANA™ parade on July 30 which is followed up by the Arts and Cultural Festival on Olympic Island on July 31 and August 1, 2005.

CARIBANA™ is a feast for the eyes and ears, and you will be able to enjoy a great Caribbean celebration, complete with fabulous music, exuberant dancing and delicious food.

CARIBANA™ is also the only surviving Arts Project launched as part of the 1967, Canada B1-centennial celebrations. It has gone on to become the cornerstone of Tourism in Southern Ontario.

2. Please tell us about the festival’s history, how has it evolved?

The Caribbean Cultural Committee (“the CCC”, registered trademark – CARIBANA™) is a non-profit, community-based corporation created by a group of Pan-Caribbean academics, students and professionals in 1967, under the name Caribbean Committee for Cultural Advancement. The CCC was established in response to Canada’s centennial celebration commemorating its diversity and the contributions made to Canada from the various cultures that comprise the Canadian mosaic. What began as an expression of the goals and aspirations of the Caribbean community resident here—that the culture of the Caribbean had pride of place in Canada—has blossomed into the world-renowned festival of Carnival Arts, CARIBANA™.

3. How about all the colourful costumes? Who creates them? What about the cost involved?

The masquerade costumes are designed by special artists after which people with special craft-making skills are employed to actually produce the costumes at what are called mas camps. The cost varies from band to band but generally stays within the range of $75 to $130 per costume.

4. Please tell us about the Caribana Marketplace.

The Caribbean Village is going to be set up on an elevated area overlooking the parade route, on Lakeshore Boulevard. From there patrons will be able to look down and see the spectacle of Caribana as it unfolds while having another party going on nonstop! There will be more than 50 top artistes from different islands of the Caribbean performing during the course of the day from 10:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. The artistes will come from Barbados, Grenada, Antigua/Barbuda, Trinidad & Tobago, St. Vincent & The Grenadines and much, much more. There will also be locally based Caribbean-bred performers appearing during the all-day extravaganza. This is to be staged on a cordoned off area knows as the Bandshell.

There will be Arts & Crafts booths from the different Caribbean islands set up around the area with tasty Caribbean food on sale throughout the day. All of is going to cost only $10.

The CARIBANA ™ ‘Marketplace is where commerce meets culture, and everyone walks away with a tasteful memory. Dine on festival-style Caribbean cuisine, shop for an array of Arts & Crafts, and Festival souvenirs and relish a toast of the brewmaster’s craft and some of Niagara’s internationally acclaimed wines and spirits.

5. Please tell us about the musical entertainment offered during Caribana?

The musical entertainment generally comes from various top Caribbean artistes coming in from the Caribbean and of course locally based Caribbean-bred artistes.

6. What type of food services are available during Caribana?

There are various types of food available during the festival each year. On either side of the parade route on Caribana Day, authorized vendors sell different types of Caribbean cuisine including Pelau (Peas & Rice), Jerk Chicken, Bake & Shark (sandwiches) and traditional drinks including Sorrel and Mauby (a drink made from the bitter bark of a tree and sweetened with lots of sugar).

7. Please give us an idea of the sponsors who make this big event happen.

The sponsors vary from year to year. This year the list includes The City of Toronto, CTV News, The Toronto Star, Yorkgate Mall, British West Indian Airways (BWIA), The Caribbean Camera and Breyers.

8. Roughly how many people visit Caribana and what economic impact does it have on Toronto?

CARIBANA™ attracts according to research estimates from DECIMA (1990) nearly one million spectators to the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), generating, according to figures compiled and released by the City of Toronto, $400 million annually for the Toronto economy.

9. What is the cost of attending Caribana? What events require tickets, how much are they and where can I obtain tickets?

Some events require the purchase of tickets, while others don’t. For instance the CCC/Yorkgate Mall Children’s Parade which takes place on July 16, is FREE. So too is the Parade Day. However, if on Caribana Day (the parade day), you wish to sit in the stadium on the CNE Grounds that requires the purchase of a ticket. Different events carry different admission fees. You will be able to get specific information about the admission prices for the official Caribana events by visiting the website: www.caribana.ca.

Thank you for giving us a preview of this colourful, exciting festival and I look forward to a great party.

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