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Saturday, June 08, 2013

How do I join in the Caribana Parade?

Photo credit 

Don't want to be stuck behind a fence? Get a costume. 

Growing up in the culture, we sometimes forget that lots of people don't know what "play mas" means, think a band is a bunch of people with instruments and a mas camp is .... well I don't know what they think that is.

This post is for you.

So, you see Caribana on TV and see the beautiful ladies in costume in the newspapers and you think to yourself, I'd love to do that. I wonder how you get involved? Do you have to take dance lessons or attend practices? Do you make your own costume? How much does it cost? Can I get a used costume on Kijiji? $200 for a costume??? Can I wear it next year again?
You might be laughing, but these are all questions we (Karabana & I) have been asked over the years.

How do I get in the parade.

The parade is made up of about 13 masquerade bands. These bands come up with a theme and design on average 10 different costumes called sections which they will manufacture and offer for sale to the public. In addition to the costume, the band provides music trucks during the parade as well as drinks, lunch, security and other support.
In the spring time, bands throw band launches. These are like parties/fashion shows/ fundraisers. When you attend these shows, there are models dressed in the bands creations and you can see what costumes you like. We attend most of these launches and post the photos on the blog. If you see something you like, you can contact the respective bands (links on the right side of the blog under the heading mas bands)

I don't live in Toronto, is online purchasing safe?

Not every band offers online purchasing, but those who do, use reputable third party payment processors and I have never heard of anyone being ripped off. We have been registering online for the last few years and have never had an issue. After registering, its not a bad idea to contact the leader of your section to work out details for any extras you might want and to organize costume pickup. If you are out of town, you may only be flying in on the Thursday or Friday night and you may miss the scheduled pick up date. Its important that your section leader is aware of this.
Also, if you pay by credit card you have zero liability, so there is your added peace of mind.   

 How do I choose a band?

Ideally, you will see a costume you love and buy it. There are some other considerations. Do you have friends that play in a certain band? There are bands that charge a premium and offer premium services. Eg a flat bed truck with porta- poties, enhanced security etc. If you have friends who are involved, they can give you a band recommendation. Otherwise you can google other peoples past experiences. Personally, we tend to play with one of the first 3 to 4 bands in the parade order. This lets you know that you will get an early start to your day and helps a little with the congestion on the parade route.

This isn't Brazil, you don't need to join a samba school

The parade isn't an organized dance performance. Its more of a moving party. It doesn't hurt to familiarize yourself with the music. You can download some music here for free.


If you live here, you might want to hit some pre-Caribana parties (called fetes) This will get you in the spirit and you might pick up some dance moves. Check out Toronto-lime.com http://www.torontolime.com for party listings.

How much does it cost?

Well, the cost varies, and as always, you get what you pay for. About $200 for ladies and $175 for men will get you into one of the larger bands. If you want a larger (front-line costume) you can double that price quite easily. Some of the smaller/newer bands can be less expensive, but your trade off is being further back in the order of the bands (parade).

So this is the basic info you need if you want to play mas (participate in costume in the parade). I'm sure I missed some stuff, if you have questions, leave a comment and I'll try my best to answer.

Remember, Caribana is not a spectator sport. To have a really good time you need to get a costume and come play a mas. Are you ready for the road?


cheathamk said...

Where can I find this year's parade order of the bands? Thanks for the information!

Trini-in-Toronto said...

They don't announce the official order of the bands until maybe a week or so before the junior carnival parade. But last year they started a thing where the bands got to choose their position based upon the order they placed last year in the competition. So the band who won band of the year last year got to pick any position in the parade, the 2nd place got to pick 2nd etc. So if you pic a band who placed in the top 3 or 4 last year, that is the best chance you have to go down the road early. I'm not promising that is the same this year, but I haven't heard otherwise.

Unknown said...

As usual, great post. Thank you. I wish people would stop coming downtown to storm the parade. If you want to jump up then get in a band or wine to the side (behind the fence).

Kryssy said...

First: LOL at the picture.
Second: LOL @ "You don't need to join a samba school."
I literally chuckled.
Great post as always. :)

Crying Wolf said...

I remember when I first wanted to try, I took it as a job application. I told them how old I was, what education I had, work experience, volunteer experience, and if I had to fill out some paperwork I was ready. Talk about embarrassing lol. Then I looked at the parade on YouTube and tried to dance like them since I couldn't dance good at all. Yep, I had no idea what I was doing...ugh.

As for the people raiding, I don't know why but people can't seem to take the "you can look but you can't touch" mentality well. I think to them it's a competition to see how many people they can wine up on, or how many butt pictures they can take. I see videos all time about people not in costume counting their wines and recording ass like they have never seen it before. I saw one where some guy literally recorded this girls butt as she walked all the way to the CNE, over 20 minutes in total over several videos long. I'm surprised he was never caught, ladies watch your backs!

Club S.O.C.C.A. said...

Kudos for writing this article. We do often forget that although we may all live around this event and other like it the depth of knowledge is limited.
Which we believe stems from a greater issue and a lack of respect for the cultural aspects of the entire presentation.

Kryssy said...

@Lisa, Kara & Trini: so besides the "new" parade route, I saw on FB & Twitter that the organizers of the parade are supposedly going to be really strict this year on stormers and plan to enforce the ' no wristband, no access to the parade route'-rule this year. Thoughts?
I'm hopeful it will work. I didn't have a bad stormer experience last year but 2 years ago it was really bad.

Trini-in-Toronto said...

Like a politician, my thoughts on this wrist band plan are evolving. I'm about half way through writing a post on the topic and will put it up soon. For now, I think crowd control is the biggest threat that faces the festival, and we have to attack it on multiple fronts. All all efforts are to be encouraged.

Kryssy said...

Great! Looking forward to reading. And I agree with you. It has to be the bandleaders and the city/law enforcement working together.

Tribal Carnival just announced their theme for Caribana 2014. And I quote: "Most are good. Some are bad. But all are sinfully sexy: ANGELZS. "

This is good..... I'm really excited.

Karabana said...

These really are the questions that I've been asked over the years, no exaggeration, so it was time to write this post. :)
There is a big misunderstanding that since we're in a band we play music. Some of the other questions I get are "What instrument do you play?", and "Do you make your costume?" <--- Most ppl assume I do.

Crying Wolf said...

Sounds exciting for sure but I wonder if D'Bandits Carnival Angelz have anything to do with this theme?

Kryssy said...

@Crying Wolf....I shared your comment about when you first played mas with my cousin today as we reminisced about how "green" we were when we started back playing mas at Caribana as adults. =)
As far as the Angelz theme... That's a good point. I guess everyone gets influences from previous themes/costumes, etc... they just put their own spin on it.
I have to admit, every time the mas camps announce their themes (and I watch the Victoria's Secret fashion show -LOL), I always wish that a band would do a full "angel" theme. I'd think to myself, "Give me wings people!!" LOL! If I hadn't already signed up with Tribal Knights I would have definitely campaigned for my group to play with Saldenah's Angel of Beauty section this year.
I think if Tribal does this right, it could be really beautiful, sexy & creative.

Crying Wolf said...

Tribal Knights always bring beautiful costumes so I'm pretty sure this will be nothing short of fab. I think the band that pretty much brought Victoria's Secret properly first was Fantasy Trinidad, and a costume called Final Fantasy from another band. Gawd it was amazing and it seems wings are back again in Trinidad this year. I'm pretty darn excited to see what Toronto will bring next year.

Oh as for the whole D'Bandit thing, I didn't mean they stole his idea or anything. I was wondering if maybe he dropped his ideas with Callaloo since they aren't releasing anything this year and joined Knights instead.

And oh yes, I watch the fashion show too and I can only imagine wearing wings. Glad to see someone going all out angel instead of one wing here, one wing there...not that I mind because I'm glad the bands are trying it out. I cannot wait to see what Knights are doing and if they launch early as always, they could steal many masqueraders lol.

Crying Wolf said...

I'm actually hoping to wear my costumes again next year, I never really got to enjoy any of them...this is gonna make it hard for those that make their own too. That's for sure.

Trini-in-Toronto said...

Update on the order of the bands, This year it appears as if the larger more established top 4 biggest "A" bands stepped aside and allowed the 3 newest "A" bands to go down the route first. This sounds like a good idea to me, it gives the newer bands who have shown the initiative to make it into the "A" category a leg up to try and further establish themselves. It looks good on the TMBA.

Unknown said...

How old do you have to be to play mas?

Karabana said...

That's a good question Truly Bri. Junior Carnival (formerly Kiddies) has teens, but then teens also play mas in the Grand Parade as well. I'm not aware of the bands putting a minimum age requirement on their masqueraders.

Ivory said...

Hey! Can people outside of the parade wear costumes. Is it acceptable? It will be my birthday during Caribana and my friend and I are coming from the US. I want to wear a costume

Ivory said...

My friends and I are coming from the us for Caribana for my 25th this year. Is it acceptable to wear costumes outside of the parade or is there somewhere else to wear them? I want to do it for my birthday

Trini-in-Toronto said...

Well, If you have a costume and you want to come down to the parade and watch in costume, that's ok. Have you considered getting a costume from one of the Toronto bands and joining the parade? There isn't really another event besides the parade that people would be attending in costume. But the spectators can wear whatever they want.

Ivory said...

I thought a bout it. How much does if cost? How long is the parade?

Ivory said...

Yes I thought about it. How much does it cost?

Trini-in-Toronto said...

last year costumes fir ladies ran in the low $200 range. The parade route can be found at the link below. Its a day long thing and its a good party. Despite all the challenges, getting a costume and playing mas is the best way to enjoy the parade. Band launches start on April 5th and we will have pics up on the blog the next morning. There is a different launch most weekends till June. The route is about 2-3 km long, but its an all day party. You don't have to decide today, after a few launches you might see a costume you like

Unknown said...

Hey is this recent information because I'd love to join next year.... and do you know if ppl are allowed to make their own costumes and still be in the parade

Karabana said...

Hi Nadia odette,
It's a 2 year old post, but no it's not new information. Everything about playing mas (wearing a costume) still applies.
There is Build a Mas, you can search for that post on the blog.
No, one can't make their own costume and try & be in the parade. You must be part of a band.

Slimm said...

What are the tops bands to play in?
Im planing on playing mass for the 1st time in my life lol

Unknown said...

How do i create a band for Caribana?

marissaj16 said...

My friends and I are looking at purchasing costumes for a band. I see there are different levels (front line, leader etc) does that mean anything in the actual parade or just for the levels of costumes?

Karabana said...

Yes, sections place masqueraders before judging according to their costumes marissaj16. Leaders, front line, mid line, followed by back line.

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