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Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Sometimes, you need an outsider to remind you what you have

Hi Folks,

We take Caribana for granted. We get all wrapped up in politics, funding, which band is the best, who have the biggest feathers and most expensive costume. We fight among ourselves and complain about mas not being what it was back in the day, and not being what it's supposed to be now.

We focus on everything that went wrong and fell short.

I have this auditor buddy of mine, he is from Chicago but his job takes him all over North America. He basically spends more than half of his time living out of a suitcase. He is in his mid twenties, he’s not West Indian and him and 3 college buddies (who had never been to Toronto) decided to come for Caribana.

I asked him to throw together a paragraph outlining his experience of the festival as a first timer. I expected them to talk about what parties they went to, maybe mention the food they tried and some comments on the parade.... probably complaining about the barricades (I couldn’t convince them to play mas)

What I got was raw emotion. It reminded me why I love our festival and city. It’s only from the outside looking in, that you can get this kind of perspective.

There are lots of North American Carnivals, and we have been to a few of them, but they don’t have what we have here. We need to cherish, protect and nurture this thing.... it's special.

This is what he wrote:

Below is a quick paragraph about my friend’s first experience in Toronto and Caribana,

“'Best time of my life': probably the most concise way to describe Caribana 2011, without fully diving into the rich detail it deserves. I've never seen so many happy people in one place, it felt like one big family. The weekend was an epic sensory-overload. The experience is also utterly exhausting: I've never danced so much and slept so little in my life. Do not come to Caribana expecting to sit back, relax and enjoy the beautiful Toronto summer sun. It is an experience you have to create and participate in to gain full benefit from. Caribana is, after all, about people coming together to celebrate culture and party,

An experience as great as Caribana could not be possible in any other North American city than Toronto. No other place has the perfect balance of diversity, openness, acceptance, self-identity, and sheer size needed to pull off such an incredible large-scale cultural celebration. Since its genesis in the late 60s, Caribana has evolved from a small re-creation of Trinidad's Carnival into an epic landmark festival celebrating the music, art, culture, costumes, dance and food from the Caribbean and beyond. Caribana is, after all, about people coming together to celebrate culture, party and have fun.”

What do you think?



Carnivalcocoa said...

Your friend's right. Caribana is a nice experience, that's why I've made the trip from NY every year for the past 6 years. After I introduced my mom to Caribana, she is HOOKED on coming to T.O.
It's my favorite North American carnival, right up there with Miami. Miami is a party town and nothing can change that --- feteing is ace down there. I'm sure you've experienced other American carnivals and can make a decent comparison.

Can you honestly say that those carnivals can match up to Toronto in terms of costumes, parade route, time curfew and fun? Chances are: no. That's why Toronto's is considered the biggest carnival in North America.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree. I had my first experience when I was 17, and it was my 10th playing mas this year.
Caribana is an experience we miss as soon as we get on the Gardner and crawl our way past the carnival. There's a carnival rule in our group. Every year, the noobie must bring somebody new. Over the years, people have fallen off, but the numbers also grow each year, so you're constantly making new friends and new memories.

It's quite often I get teary eyed at carnival due to pure joy, and blame it on the sunscreen running into my eyes.

The countdown is on for 2012.

Unknown said...

Thanks for that Kara - it's always good to get a reminder of what we take for granted. And it's good to see something from an outsider's point of view. Caribana is a fantastic festival that is enjoyed by many, and I'm honored to be living in the city where it takes place.

Trini-in-Toronto said...

Happy 10th anniversary. Hopefully we will see you you in Barrie for the curtain call.

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