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Behind the scenes of Caribana


Toronto will be hosting its annually largest outdoor festival in North America this weekend known as The Toronto Caribbean Carnival. More commonly known as Caribana, the festival is a celebration of the Caribbean islands coming together and rejoicing in all of its culture. With the combination of tourist and Torontonians, millions come down to the parade every year to indulge in the carnival whether and patriciate in the events festivities. The parade offers an array of entertainment such as steel pan performers, street art, foods from the islands, and the biggest attraction of them all, the masquerade parade.

Speaking from someone who has actually participated in the masquerade parade also known as “mas”, it is definitely an experience like no other. There are over 15 masquerade companies to choose from who participate in the parade to compete for the title of best masquerade costumes of the year. Winner secures a sponsorship spot and funding for next year’s costumes to come.

Both choosing a masquerade band and preparing masquerade costumes takes months in advance to arrange. Masquerade bands begin to present their official costumes as early as March. After releasing costumes look, through social media, companies then set release dates as to when the costumes can be ready to be purchased by the public in person or online. All mas bands have a variety of sections to complement the theme they choose for the season. As a masquerader, your job is to pick a band/section, take measurements and pay your deposit to being the creation of your outfit. Costumes can start from $200 (backline) to $1500 (Ultra front-line). A few months later companies contact masquerades for a final fitting closer to the parade date. Once at final fitting, the remainder of your costumes is to be paid for. The company then gives out detailed information of what time the band meets on the day of the parade, the parade route, and when food and drink will be available for masqueraders. The parade walk can last hours to complete. The 3-4km route is divided into three parts. The first is for the tourist and locals to sit and watch masqueraders jump and wave while being broadcast by news and media. Second is strictly for judging. As each band takes turns performing and dancing, three judges critics each band on costume colors, style and uniqueness. Winner is announce later in the day. Third stage, masqueraders are released and have the options of going around once more or stay and party with locals and tourist.

Caribana is a lasting tradition that welcomes all ages to have some fun and a chance to get to learn a little about Caribbean culture. The Parade is this August 4th and start 8:30am-6:00pm. The parade stretches from Exhibition place, through Lakeshore Boulevard ending at 15 Saskatchewan Road. Best of all the parade it FREE! Come down experience a unique festival like no other.


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  By: Kahmeelia Smith

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