BY: KRISTINA RAMCHARRAN
The senses were in for a treat as the region was filled with the lively sounds of Soca music, the smell of the fine foods of the Caribbean and the beautiful colors of carnival costumes. The Ajax Caribbean Week in the region of Durham brought together people of the Caribbean from all around the Greater Toronto Area.
The week began with a big bang as the Durham Caribbean Festival proclaimed Ajax Caribbean week for the fourth time in a fun filled launch party held at Mysticle Lounge on Tuesday, June 20th. The event featured ticket sales for the Durham Caribbean Festival on June 24th and also showcased some vendors that would later be present at the festival. The launch was held as a small social event for people to be informed and get involved with Ajax Caribbean Week, while also providing a platform for small business owners and entrepreneurs to network with each other.
The launch party also introduced all of the activities and showcased events that happened throughout the duration of the Durham Caribbean Week. The Durham region saw a great turnout at the event, especially since people of Caribbean descent are considered a large minority in the town of Ajax.
The Ajax Caribbean Week received acknowledgment at the launch, as they were presented with an official certificate of acknowledgment by the Council Chambers. The first half of the week featured exciting Caribbean related events such as an open mic talent contest at the Rum Diaries restaurant where contestants had a chance at winning $1000. It also featured a meet and greet with Jamaica National Money Transfer which featured promotions and giveaways.
On Saturday, the highlight of the Ajax Caribbean Week took place at the Ajax Downs racetrack. Thousands of families from near and far showed up for a day of cultural family fun at the Durham Caribbean Festival. Festival goers were treated to many vendors selling local and Caribbean items, as well those promoting valuable services in the Caribbean community.
Vendors sold their most unique products, as did Dwane Wright, also known as Dr. Fresh. Dr. Fresh was at the festival showcasing and selling his product, an all-natural and eco-friendly alternative to typical air refreshers.
“So my air refreshers are all natural. It’s a greener alternative to the toxic air refreshers on the market. So, if you’re a person that doesn’t like flammable or cancerous items in your air refresher then this is the refresher for you,” said Dr. Fresh on his product.
Dr. Fresh was not the only vendor at the festival selling natural products and keeping in mind the average Caribbean individual’s affinity for natural remedies and products. Also present was Rochelle Bennett of U.P Beauty.
“We sell all natural skincare that’s handcrafted by myself and my sister. We started about seven months ago so this is kind of like the baby stages of our business. But we are all about natural healing and natural products,” said Bennett on their products.
Bennett also added that as a person who lives in Durham she sees the high importance in the festival and how it works to keep the Caribbean community together, despite this being her first time attending the festival.
“I think it’s a really good event, I think it’s really good for us as a community to come together, and just so that everyone knows and networks and can figure out who and where locally,” she added.
Apart from products bringing the community together, vendors also brought out services to help with all sorts of needs. From health and mental health support services to financial services and charitable causes, there was a person for everything.
Dione Mason, a fitness and lifestyle coach wanted to get the festival goers active by signing them up to take part in the Toronto Carnival Run.
“Our goal is to build a center that will be able to preserve African and Caribbean culture, as well as a lifestyle center,” said Mason on the purpose of the proceeds from the run.
In regards to the weather at the Durham Caribbean Festival, Mason said, “the weather is a little windy, but that’s okay, people have been blown closer to us.”
Ryan Shaw of Approved Financial Services and the Approval Store, had a vendor booth to promote their services, and to assure that their services are suitable for almost anyone.
“At The Approved Financial Services we specialize in mortgages, first mortgages, second mortgages, private mortgages, and over at the Approval Store we specialize in auto loans and auto approvals,” said Shaw on their products.
On the reception they received at the festival, he said, “so it’s been a great crowd, very multicultural. A lot of people so no complaints.”
The day did not just include vendors, but it also included a wide selection of Caribbean food vendors, where attendees could purchase jerk chicken to doubles and everything in between, as well as a main stage where the festival goers were treated to live performances by local Caribbean-based artists.
Performances included steel pan musicians, live DJs, dance performances and reggae singers such as popular Canadian reggae artist Steele. The festival also featured a kids zone, where children could take part in fun activities and games.
The Ajax Caribbean Week continued the day after the festival with Durham Caribbean Derby held again at Ajax Downs, where attendees who visited the Durham Caribbean Festival were admitted for free and could take part in watching the live horse racing action.
The final two days of the Ajax Caribbean Week showcased gourmet jerk dishes by Master Chef Kwasi Douglas, and then finally a Caribbean Family Appreciation Day. The festival ran for a full seven days from June 20th to June 27th, 2017.
After this year’s successful Ajax Caribbean Week, vendors, performers, attendees, and sponsors look forward to the hopeful future of a fifth edition next year. The town of Ajax was sure to create an exciting week while bringing together and uplifting members and businesses pertaining to the Caribbean community.