Toronto Caribbean Carnival returns after two-year pandemic hiatus

The sights, sounds, tastes, and history of the Caribbean were showcased and celebrated this morning at Nathan Phillips Square during the official kick off for the Toronto Caribbean Carnival.

The month-long event, which is believed to be the largest street festival of its kind in North America, is returning after a two-year pandemic hiatus. It will run until July 31.

“We’re really excited to be back and to welcome everyone,” said Laverne Garcia, executive chair of the festival’s management committee.

“It’s really for all people. While it’s the largest Caribbean cultural festival, it’s also something for everyone. … It’s about equality, it’s about diversity. A lot of people don’t realize the roots of carnival is an emancipation and that’s why there’s a big celebration.”

This year, children and families are invited to partake in the new ‘Kiddies for Mas’ carnival on Sunday at the Scarborough Town Centre, as well as the Junior Parade set for July 16, also in Scarborough.

The carnival will then conclude with the Grande Parade along Lake Shore Boulevard West on July 30. This year’s parade is set to feature more than 10,000 colourful masqueraders and a dozen mas bands, marching and dancing along Lake Shore Boulevard West and on the grounds of Exhibition Place.

Some of the final weekend’s other highlights include the King and Queen Showcase on Thursday, July 28, the Ontario Steel Pan Association’s Pan Alive Showcase on Friday, July 29, and the new Carnival Flavours event on Sunday, July 31.

Hundreds of thousands of revelers are expected to attend Toronto Caribbean Carnival’s final weekend, which coincides with Emancipation Day, a symbolic observance of the 1834 abolition of slavery across the British Empire.

Speaking during Thursday morning’s launch event, Toronto Mayor John Tory said that events like the Caribbean Carnival are needed to “bring people together.

He said this festival serves as a reminder of “how much we respect each other, how much we embrace each other, how much we need each other to make this city the place that it is.”

As part of the carnival kick off, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland also announced $1 million in funding from the federal government’s Tourism Relief Fund. This money will be used to modernize the festival, expand its offerings, and enhance visitor experiences through the development of a new app as well as upgrades to its website to better support online ticket sales. These funds will also permit organizers to hold Toronto Caribbean Carnival-themed events throughout the year.

The Toronto Caribbean Festival, previously known as Caribana, was first established in 1967.

The festivals events are typically attended by more than 1.2 million people, including 180,000 tourists.

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