Jagmeet Singh loves us. He said so as he danced on stage last Tuesday. Mayor John Tory said he loves us, but declined to soca– “because if you really want to know I can’t dance”. Liberal MP Adam Vaughan really really loves us -- and so the love-in went on for over an hour at Nathan Phillips Square. It was the launch of the 52nd annual Toronto Caribbean Carnival, and guess what? The city loves us too!
Festival head Denise Herrera-Jackson had a stage full of men helping her launch the new season. Perfect weather, a smallish but energetic crowd and a massive media presence watched and listened to the speeches, the dancing, Pan Fantasy steelband, singing, costumes and more costumes. It was the most successful launch in years.
If there were any down notes in the launch it was the lack of any announcement about a new name sponsor (there isn’t one) and the failure of the Provincial Government to have an MPP on stage. Traditionally the Minister of Tourism and Culture speaks at the launch – this year an embattled Lisa MacLeod sent a no-name staffer to stand in for her.
The launch was more about the cultural highlights of Canada’s largest outdoor event, then the politics of how and who is funding the thing. CP24 host Brandon Gonez opened the noon hour ceremony with a plea from the stage for people to leave their weapons at home and behave at this year’s parade. When the warnings were over he got down and talking about the good stuff coming to Toronto Streets this summer.
The parade will have more mas bands on the street, thanks to a decision by the Festival Management Committee to allow guest and non-competing bands into the mix. Many of the non-competing bands will have thousands of costumed revellers taking part in what is described as the most watched parade in Canada.
This year the parade, scheduled for August 3rd, will have its route doubled to 8 kms from Exhibition Place down Lakeshore Blvd West.
“For new Canadians, often they feel like they don’t belong, but coming to a festival where you can listen to the music you grew up with and seeing people in the streets in big numbers is a way of saying ‘yes we belong’,” said NDP leader Jagmeet Singh to the cheering crowd. The diversity that Singh was talking about was evident in the crowd that came out to watch the show. In amongst the costumed Green Mas players and Moko Jumbies, there were Caribbean people galore along with carnival curious people from almost every community in the city.
With the end of the successful launch under their belts, the FMC organizers are now working away on their next two big events – Junior King and Queen Showcase on July 14th outside the Malvern Town Centre, and the Junior Carnival Parade. Over 3,000 children are expected to play Mas on Neilson Road in Malvern for the Junior Carnival Parade and Family Day on July 20th.