- Soca 2019! -

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Carnival Nationz in Miami

Carnival Nationz is competing in Miami carnival this year, and they've revamped some Caribana costumes and added new ones. I really like the blue and grape mixed into Jane, and the frontline headpiece & collar. In this photograph it looks like azure, but on their site, it's turquoise.
What do you think of their new and redesigned sections?
These Carnival Nationz photos are from their launch. For more pics, check out their website and facebook group.
Are you going to Miami, did you go last year, how was it?

Mae Mae

Big Bamboo

Royal Jail

Friday, August 27, 2010

Caribana on wheels

A reader, Liz, contacted me several months ago with some questions about how accessible Toronto and the Caribana festival is, as she was planning a visit and had some concerns. The following is her experience and pictures.

Caribana on wheels
As a rule, parades are not wheelchair-friendly unless you go several hours before they start so that you get a good spot with no one in front of you. It's definitely not a case where you can expect people to move out of your way, because they usually don't. Caribana is no exception except for the fact that I was told by the Toronto tourism board that both Lamport Stadium and the reserved seating section for the parade both had special areas for wheelchair seating and that I would be helped when I arrived.
I was definitely helped--all staff was exceptionally friendly, but the problem was that no one knew where the wheelchair seating was. It would save a lot of people time and stress if volunteers could be informed ahead of time that wheelchair seating exists in a particular part of the stadium. The first night (July 29) I went to the King and Queen competition I was moved several times, but never to the wheelchair section. This didn't cause me any problems at all, but it did disturb the media, probably security and all volunteers involved. The second night I went to the Pan Alive competition and was seated with relative ease--someone had obviously figured out where the wheelchair seating was. I will add that depending on who is in charge, there may or may not be restroom access. There is definitely a wheelchair accessible ladies' room in the stadium, but finding it may be an extremely complicated process. I came from the United States so I was required to have an indwelling catheter because I was flying alone, and that solved the problem for me (if you have a leg bag, you can pretty much go anywhere within reason) but for others, especially people who live in Toronto or just drove up, it might be a huge problem.
The wheelchair accommodation in reserved seating for the parade was a completely different story. I didn't arrive as early as I had planned since Wheeltrans didn't pick me up at the specified time and I had to call a cab. They may very well have showed up at the other entrance at the downtown Sheraton (as they claimed to have)--but to leave without even checking the main entrance (where I was waiting) seemed absurd to me. They offered to come back (two hours) later but I honestly didn't want to miss most of the parade so I called Motion Taxi Cooperative. This is the company I used primarily when I was in Toronto and will give information about later. At the parade, the only reserved seating that appeared to be available was the VIP seating, where they put me. This is a concern that should be addressed (if parade organizers wish to offer wheelchair accessible seating) because there either is none available or no one could find it. If I had been advised ahead of time that there was no wheelchair section, I wouldn't have gone. I don't like crowds that large because no one can see me and I usually can't see anything, so the only time I go to events like that is if there is reserved seating and someone at the tourism board told me there was. I will add that this person was NOT a Caribana volunteer/organizer--she obviously worked for the city of Toronto.

Traveling alone to the Caribana events is entirely possible but I suggest that you be in moderately good shape if you do this. I was dropped off at one side of the park and picked up on the opposite side, so it wasn't a short push. I have no idea how far it was, but I have a manual chair and I kept asking people along the way and they just said, "keep going." It wasn't the farthest I have ever had to go, but it wasn't close either.

I can only say with certainty that the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel at 123 Queen Street West has extremely good wheelchair facilities. The rooms specified as wheelchair-accessible with a roll-in shower have a fixed (hard) seat in them, so definitely take your travel roho along. A commode chair isn't necessary because you can transfer to the seat and then push your chair out of the shower to the other side of the curtain. If you need a commode chair for other reasons, by all means take one with you because the toilet is just a regular one with a hard seat and no special grab bars. There is a bar along the wall but not permanently affixed to the seat. I specified a non-smoking room, which happened to reek of cigarette smoke, but I actually kind of expect that because it's a hotel and people smoke in places they aren't supposed to. This hotel is downtown and not exactly close to Lamport Stadium or Exhibition Place, and I recommend not relying on WheelTrans. If you don't live in the area and call ahead, you can get a temporary registration number that allows you to use the service, but what they fail to tell you is that you can only schedule trips one day in advance and will get a busy signal for about five calls before you get through (you just have to keep calling back). Even then, sometimes you may be told that you cannot schedule a ride due to high-volume medical calls or whatever. I was able to schedule two out of eight trips with them, so I ended up spending about $225 on cabs alone. WheelTrans is only $3 a trip, but you must have the exact fare because the driver cannot make change. So just plan on spending a lot of money on cabs and you might get lucky and schedule more $3 rides than I was able to. You also can probably find a hotel that's closer to the events, I just went with the one I got the best answers for wheelchair access from.

I'm middle-aged so it was fun, but I didn't attend any of the club or j'ouvert events and I wouldn't suggest those. It might be fun if you're 20-30, but because of the amount of people (they appear to be packed, like a rave) it looks very unsafe from a wheelchair perspective. If you insist on going to a very crowded event (don't forget to add in alcohol), go at your own risk. I had a great time but I wouldn't go back to Toronto only for the Caribana event. I'd schedule a vacation that included the Civic Holiday when the parade is held, the last weekend of July, I suppose, but I'd plan to do other things as well. The parade was the most fun and it was also the most difficult part of the trip for me. As far as playing mas (actually dressing up and being in the parade) if you have a manual chair and someone is willing to push you (I think the route is at least six miles long but I'm not positive), then you'd probably be okay. Actually, I suggest that you have someone with you specifically to do that. Even if you have an electric chair, I'd still have someone there specifically to help. I have no idea how huge the crowd is at the end, but just guessing I'm going to say it's huge and unruly, just like most crowds tend to be. There has already been concern about barricades to keep out the individuals who aren't in costume, so just guessing I'll say it's another thing you'd have to do at your own risk. It looks really fun though, I just hate crowds unless there's a specific area reserved for me to be.
If you are not from Toronto, keep in mind that even though it's advertised as an extremely accessible modern city (and is for the most part), it is not entirely accessible. There are no elevators to the subway, I'm not sure about the streetcars but I'm going to say those are not either, and a very strange thing is that the TTC buses have little wheelchair symbols on them, but you cannot ride them--you have to schedule a ride ahead of time with WheelTrans. In addition, not all of the cab companies have accessible service, so I recommend Motion Taxi Cooperative, (416) 766-8294, toll-free 1-866-424-9960, www.motiontaxi.com or Wheelchair Transit Ontario, (905) 799-3648, www.wheelchairtaxiontario.ca or wct@wheelchairtaxiontario.ca . There are curb-cuts on all of the sidewalks (at least downtown) but the sidewalks themselves are not in very good shape and there are those streetcar tracks in the streets you must watch for. As for the businesses themselves, the other strange thing I noticed was that not every single one is accessible. On one block there may be a Subway with one step, and a block away one exists with a flat entrance. I would say that it is accessible for the most part, but I live in Denver, Colorado, which is almost 100% accessible. This most likely is because of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and something just dawned on me: Canada is still North America and it's Americans, not United States Citizens with Disabilities so to be perfectly honest, I'm not sure why certain businesses don't have ramped entrances or lifts. I wasn't unhappy with my trip at all because everyone was so nice and helpful to me, and I plan on going back. Just keep in mind certain things when planning a trip and do things ahead of time.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

No behaviour - Caribana crimes

Now that Caribana, Mardi Gras & Caribfest are over, I promised I'd do a post on Caribana crimes - things that are simply in poor taste, or lacking acceptable carnival etiquette.

Definitely the #1 Caribana crime is stormers. I've heard Carnival Nationz masqueraders describe the parade as "fucked up", there was "no feeling the vibe" for some, and others weren't pleased with security. Some comments that haven't been removed are on Scotiabank Caribana 2010 | Official Facebook Group - FEEL DE VIBE. The days we females give these non costumed stormers a token wine should be gone, but they aren't. There are still too many masqueraders getting on bad with them, which doesn't put a stop to it! If these guys can't get no jam, they'll move on. If no masqueraders will wine with them, they'll stay out of the parade!! But for the small amount of masqueraders that tell them to get out, there are many more who don't, and worse, who wine with them.
Stormers piss many of us off, and it's not fun trying to maneuver around them. Many have no manners, they shove their way through, forget even excusing themselves, and they don't mind your costume. I heard some guys were grabbing ass. So that shows you right there what some think of our Caribana, how they have zero respect for female masqueraders, and look at our carnival as an opportunity to be nasty with girls in bikinis. This includes those sleazy fellas shooting video from down low. Disgusting. We've all seen stormers trying to get around the Kings, Queens & Individuals, and as a result of their lack of concern, some of them get torn or break.
Simply put, they ruin the road experience for many masqueraders.

2. Costume malfunction. We pay good hard earned money for our costumes, and to have them fall apart in any way on the road is a crime. A waistband that breaks at judging can be embarrassing. Things sticking out, sharp edges that get caught on everyone, poorly secured pieces that come off, all crimes. I consider headpieces that won't stay on in with this. The headpiece makes the costume, it's the crowning glory, and for so many gyrls this year to be holding theirs, or attaching it to their back straps, means they didn't want to wear it. Why not? It either didn't fit properly, or stay on, or it hurt. I've seen all examples this year. You'll want to wear a comfortable headpiece. When a headpiece isn't designed with function in mind, it falls short. It's a shame really, because there were so many gorgeous looking, full & huge, different headpieces that didn't work.

3. Drunk & disorderly. I'm talking about the masqueraders who get so wasted that they're stumbling, making out with random guys, and showing no behaviour. These displays show not only a serious lack of judgment, but it's embarrassing to watch these train wrecks. I know carnival is the time to free up and get on bad, but there's a line people.

4. Tights. I've heard comments that most women should wear 'em, but they don't. I figure, if your legs, etc. look better in 'em, wear 'em. The problem is, you see a lot of runs, which is a visual crime, the eyes focus on that instead of the costume. If I had a run, I'd find myself to the nearest washroom/port-a-john & take 'em off. I know, I know, easier said than done, and maybe you're having such a great time that you don't care. Chosing the right tights is just as important. Come on ladies, no control top!... I saw too much of that on the road again, tsk tsk. I guess this next one is more of a fashion preference - coloured fishnets. To me, they're a faux pas, I don't like the looks of them.

5. Poor costume choice. While carnival is all about freeing your inhibitions, it's also extremely visual. So selecting a costume that best suits your body type is essential. Most sections have a corset or tankini option, which can look sexy, yet, they aren't worn that much. Just as not everyone should wear a wire cage bra &/or thong (I'd never!), a bikini isn't the best choice for everyone.

I won't go on, I'd rather you contribute to the list...

So what Caribana crimes have you noticed?

PS: If you'd like any of your Caribana, Mardi Gras, &/or Caribfest pics published on the blog in slide shows, email them to me at: karabana01@yahoo.ca

Monday, August 16, 2010

Caribfest - the big little carnival

It's a sad truth that I hate to admit, but the more I jump up at Caribfest and Mardi Gras, the less I like Caribana. Mind you, there wouldn't be a Caribfest without Caribana. And Caribana can still proudly boast it's the biggest and best Caribbean festival in North America. But when you compare the 3 parades, the big thing is what a difference in the attitutes of the spectators! There aren't a bunch of - I'll say it - young assholes shoving their way through, disrespecting not only the masqueraders, but the Kings & Queens and Individuals.

What I noticed with the greening of Caribfest was some volunteers picking up litter. The streets were reopened immediately after the last band, so did that mean there was no need for street cleaners? Or they do that later?

The downer to Caribfest was charging an entry fee into the main stage. There weren't many people inside, which was too bad for those food vendors waiting to sell. So this resulted in the few vendors outside the gates/in the park having super crazy long line ups. In typical West Indian fashion, more people chose to lime outside the gate or in the parking lots instead.
It was great to have met many blog readers the last 3 Saturday's.
I prefered Saturday's weather the most, cloudy with no blazing sun. Very fortunately, the threat of thunderstorms never happened!
We left Friday afternoon to avoid Saturday morning traffic, which I heard wasn't an issue. The boat cruise Fri. night was a unexpected fun time. At first, I didn't have high hopes (we don't care for dj fetes/cruises), but luckily, it turned out to be the best thing to do in Barrie the Friday night.
So our las lap was the best. Caribfest is turning into quite a big little carnival!

such a sign of the times

Send me your Barrie pics if you want them posted on the blog slide show I'll be doing.

Caribana 2010 slideshow

Mardi Gras, Hamilton

Mardi Gras, Hamilton

Blog Archive

J'ouvert 2008!

J'ouvert 2008!

Mardi Gras 2010

Buublenut, Megan & Karabana at Caribana 2007!

http://www.westindiantube.com/view_video.php?viewkey=bcbeece3d9128ae855 a7


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