Each year at the beginning of August, Canada hosts the annual Caribana festival in Toronto. Caribana is North America’s most highly attended Caribbean Carnival. Although it pays special tribute to the Caribbean demographic of Toronto, the festival garners international attention and brings in approximately 1.3 million tourists and 4 million dollars each year. Caribana is known for its festive costumes, lively music and parties or fetes.
Caribbean Carnivals vary from country to country but is understood to be an overall celebration of the emancipation and freedom of Caribbean peoples throughout the diaspora. Caribana began in Toronto in 1967 as a gift from Canada’s Caribbean community to tribute Canada’s Centennial. The festival continued each year after to celebrate the diversity of Canada’s Caribbean community.
There are numerous events over Caribana weekend. The signature event is the Grande parade of the bands which takes place the first Saturday of August. Grande parade preparations begin one full year in advance and is a highly anticipated competition. Parade participants belong to bands. The bands develop new and exciting themes each year for their participants in the hopes of taking home the highly coveted Band of the Year award.
The participants of each band are called masqueraders. The masqueraders wear detailed and elaborate costumes, decorated with beading, gems and feathers while dancing the parade route with their assigned band. Each band plays steel and drum music, soca or has a live DJ or entertainer during the parade route. The masquerader costumes are handcrafted by volunteers to visually demonstrate the bands theme. At the end of the parade, each band is judged on costume design and overall energy of the masqueraders. Saldenah, one of Caribana’s first bands, has won Band of the Year three times in a row since 2017.
Each year, the number of Caribana participants increases. Visitors travel from far and near to witness the excitement of the Grande Parade of the Bands as it is the highlight of Caribana weekend.