scotiabank toronto caribbean carnival

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The Caribana - Bringing the Caribbean to Canada

I recently attended Toronto’s annual Caribbean festival, known as the Caribana and I was very impressed. I am no novice to street festivals and I did find myself constantly comparing it to the Notting Hill Carnival in London, which is also a huge annual Caribbean street festival.

The Caribana is billed as one of North America’s largest street festivals and attracts people from America, as well as all over Canada, as my friends and I discovered, as we were repeatedly chatted up by guys from Atlanta. When one guy asked where we were from (two of us are English, one German), he stated in his deep southern accent ‘oh cool, I’m from France…the South Side’.

After living in Alberta on a farm, where I was the only black person, it was a nice welcome back to the city being surrounded where there are a rainbow of cultures and backgrounds. Everyone was getting there dutty wine on, or trying at least. The atmosphere was fun and friendly and although we were warned that we were going to get ‘shanked’, I never feared for my safety in the slightest.

I only have 2 criticisms about the festival, the first one being that an area of the festival is not free and costs $25 to enter. It’s a street festival, it should be free full stop. When else do I have to pay to walk on the street. Also, unlike Notting Hill Carnival; on either side of the parade were high metal fences stopping people from really feeling part of the parade but as soon as we found a gap in the fence, we snuck in and were in the midst of it and that’s when we started to have some real fun.

My second criticism is that it took us two hours to find the Caribbean food. We arrived starving and although we saw the odd food tent, they were selling hamburgers and hot dogs…HAMBURGERS AND HOT DOGS at a Caribbean festival. I remember even seeing a shish kebab tent but no fried plantain and jerk chicken. After asking about 10 different people for directions to the food, we finally saw the light and my god was it good. There was about half a mile of Caribbean food tents laced with all my favourite foods that my mum cooked when I was younger like fried yams, plantain, and oxtail soup. I don’t know if I can count this as a criticism, as maybe we were just to blind to spot the food in the first place but the Caribana could benefit from some signage!

Apart from the above, the Caribana really does give Notting Hill Carnival a run for its money. The vibes were good, the half naked girls in their amazing costumes looked beautiful and the food (one we found it) was delicious! 

To find out more about the festival, visit their website at http://www.caribanatoronto.com/