BY: KABRENA ROBINSON
A week ahead of one of Toronto’s most anticipated celebration of Caribbean culture on the city’s summer calendar, community leaders, artists and festival enthusiasts all gathered for an elegant evening at the Annual Carnival Ball.
Hosted on July 28th on the grounds of the exquisite Liberty Grand building, the evening brought together a variety of notable members and talents within the Caribbean community. The occasion was a fun-filled sophisticated extravaganza showcasing the rich elements of carnival and Caribbean culture.
“This is an opportunity for everyone to get a glimpse of what this festival is about,” expressed Denise Herrera Jackson, CEO of Toronto Caribbean Carnival. “We are celebrating 50 years and it is so important for us to think of heritage and heritage not only for us as a festival but heritage for our country Canada,”
With newly titled sponsor Peeks Social, the world’s first e-commerce enabled live streamline platform and the celebrations around 50 years of carnival, the festivities are projected to be even more grand and spectacular than previous years.
Along with the elegant aesthetics of the Carnival Ball commencing with cocktails in the courtyard followed by a formal dinner, was the necessary splash of Caribbean culture on display. From the kaleidoscopic display of creatively designed carnival costumes to live performances that enabled an evening of great exuberance and some comedic relief facilitated by renowned comedian Mark Trinidad topped off with a vibrant Caribbean style after party. There were also giveaways from a raffle sponsored by the Caribbean Children’s Foundation.
Among the evening’s distinguished guests were Minister of Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Hon. Ahmed Hussen, MPP Granville Anderson, Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown, MPP Raymond Cho and Toronto City Councillor Joe Mihevc.
As the city council designated leader for the Toronto Caribbean Carnival for twenty years, Mihevc mentioned in his address that he has seen the growth of the festival over the years, becoming a major cornerstone of Toronto.
“Carnival has become a distinctive part of what it means to be Canadian and what it means to be Torontonian,” he expressed. “You have made your way into the hearts of Canadians and you are here to stay.”
This year, various individuals who have made remarkable contributions to the Caribbean Community were also recognized with special awards. Among the list of awardees were renowned steel pan artist Selwyn Gomes, community leaders Leslie Forbes and Colin Benjamin, international musician Ossie Gurley, Louie Saldenah the namesake of Saldenah Carnival mas band and Marline Price-Jones an expert in grand parade operations and costume designing.
Price who is also the head judge for the grand parade on August 5th expects that this year’s celebration will be a much “bigger and better” exposition of Caribbean culture and describes her position as the head judge as being one of the most “thankless jobs”.
“With the experience and the expertise of the band leaders and designers, I’m expecting it to be just fantastic,” she said in an interview. “We have the King and Queen coming up next Thursday August 3rd and that’s considered an extravagance but more so it’s on Saturday, August 5th where you have all of the sections coming together and everybody just celebrating community, celebrating 50 years of surviving really because it’s all a part of the whole emancipation process.”
Price also lamented that it is important for the Caribbean community to not only make efforts to retain the culture of Carnival in Toronto but to also acknowledge the complex historical significance behind the celebrations.
“A lot of people think Caribana and us culturally is just one time a year and it’s just a mas and the costume and the girls in their skimpy outfits and it’s more than that,” she said. “No one pays attention and they need to. There’s a lot of story telling and history that goes with the mas players as well and the band leaders it’s not just about putting on the costume.”