The Festival Management Committee (FMC) which runs the annual Toronto Caribbean Carnival will meet later this week to decide what is going to happen to this year’s annual July festival and their signature August 1 Grand Parade.
With the announcement on Tuesday that the City of Toronto is cancelling all major events until June 30 (and leaving the door open to closing all further summer events) because of the virus pandemic, carnival stakeholders must decide if they are going to proceed with the parade, moving it to a later date in the year or simply postponing it until next year.
For the FMC, the timing for its 2020 Toronto Caribbean Carnival, is now a big crapshoot. If the festival is to proceed with its mid-July kick-off, the mas’ bands have to begin opening their mas camps, holding band launches, building costumes and renting trucks for the parade.
If the City ends up extending the spring shutdown into July, the business of Carnival will be struck with a crippling economic blow – not just in terms of the mas bands, the pan yards and calypso tents, but also for the hotels, event centres and the travel industries. (The festival usually attracts 250,000 Americans to the city for Caribana Weekend).
The band launches, fetes and concerts scheduled for April, May and June will not be allowed to take place within the city, according to this week’s announcement from Mayor Tory.
Many carnival bandleaders are planning to “go virtual,” showing their costumes online. Others, like Carnival Nationz, are cancelling their plans and waiting to see what the FMC and the three levels of government decide.
“While we have been excited about showcasing our costumes for our 2020 theme, Queens and Goddesses, our foremost concern is the health and safety of everyone.
As such, based on the new announcements, lockdown extensions and cancellations through June 30, we have decided to postpone this year’s theme until 2021,” said Bryce Aguiton and Marcus Eustace. “Regarding 2020... we are awaiting direction from all levels of government, the Festival Management Committee and the stakeholders as to the status of The Toronto Carnival,” the Carnival Nationz bandleaders added. “We will keep you all posted on our involvement as we know more.”
On Wednesday, we reached out to the FMC’s Public Relations team and was told that an announcement would probably be coming soon. Word on the street is that the FMC will issue a statement on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Revellers mas’ band is considering its options. It was to stage its band launch in this month but announced last week that it was postponing its launch to “ a date to be determined in May.”
Now, with the city “shutting down” until July 1, it plans to stay in “regular communication with the Festival Management Committee and will provide status reports (to revellers) as information becomes available.
Even the carnival bands that were planning to launch online, have put their activities on hold. SunLime was set to launch earlier this week online but now “due to the uncertainty surrounding the status of the parade, will be postponing our virtual launch to a later date.”
Meanwhile, Tribal Carnival sent the most poignant message from a mas’ camp to its members. “We at Tribal carnival understand that this is a trying time for everyone and some families are even struggling to find groceries,” says the message from bandleaders Celena and Dexter Seusahai. “We will be giving away groceries to families in need of them. This will stay completely, anonymous.”