Carnival a family affair

By RON FANFAIR

Playing mas for the first time in 14 years brought back fond memories for Sharon Shelton who played with Peter Minshall, one of the top Trinidad & Tobago bandleaders, before she migrated to Canada.

Last Saturday was also special since it was the first time her two children – Asha and Julian – played mas her.

“It’s something that I have not done in quite a while and I wanted to do this year,” said Shelton, who is the executive director of Tropicana Community Service Organization.

“My son took part in the kiddies parade a few years ago and was constantly telling me he wanted to be in the big show.

“When we went to register, my daughter caught the bug and she decided that she too wanted to take part. It’s great having them out there in what is a family outing for us.”

Unlike the Sheltons, the Sammys – husband and wife Neil and Donna and daughters Jody and Meghann – have jumped up with Louis Saldenah’s Mas-K Club for the past three years.

“This is something we love to do,” said Neil Sammy. “We use to play with Edmund Hart (also a prominent T & T bandleader) before we came here.”

The Shelton and Sammy families were among nearly 10,000 Caribana revellers who showed off their colourful costumes in bright sunshine in North America’s largest carnival which attracts over one million visitors from around the world.

A total of 15 mas bands – divided into three categories – participated in this year’s parade.

Carnival Nationz, led by bandleaders Curtis Eustace, Bryce Aguiton and Dwayne “D’Bandit” Pitt who produced the theme In Full Bloom. regained the “A” Band of the Year crown they last won in 2006.

Louis Saldenah’s Mas-K Club, which portrayed A Tribute to Harold Saldenah: The Golden Years – finished second ahead of the 2007 and 2008 winner, Toronto Revellers, which featured Brazil: Bacchanal in Rio. The late Harold Saldenah was Louis’ father and who, together with the late George Bailey, ruled carnival in Trinidad and Tobago for many years.

Curtis Eustace collaborated with Andre DeFreitas to produce the All Spice Carnival band that captured the “B” and “C” class category ahead of Mervyn Skeete’s Toronto Caribbean Connection, Doldron, Doldron & Associates and Will Morton’s Fantazia International.

The bands were judged on visual impact, authenticity, creativity, mas on the move, clarity of theme, presentation and craftsmanship.

Prior to the start of the parade, federal Minister Peter Kent, Ontario’s Minister of Health Promotion Margarett Best and several other federal, provincial and municipal politicians took part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony to launch the show.

Best used the opportunity to promote the city’s bid for the 2015 Pan American Games while Kent, who missed this year’s Carnival in Trinidad by a few weeks (he was in the twin-island republic on business in mid-February), experienced the glitz and glamour of the beautiful costumes and the pulsating rhythms of soca music.

He certainly liked what he saw and reiterated that the Canadian government’s decision to substantially increase funding to the festival this year was the right one.

The federal government committed $416,000 through the Marquee Tourism Events Program (MTEP) that’s an initiative under Canada’s Economic Action Plan to provide $100 million in funding over two years for high profile events like Caribana.

“We were pleased this year to provide substantial financial support to Caribana under the program which made it possible to enhance the festival’s marketing event, both nationally and internationally,” said Kent.

“Tourism is a key driver of the Canadian economy and it contributes as much to our Gross Domestic Product as forestry, fisheries and agriculture combined. Your support today, besides the fun and sharing of the magic of Canada’s Caribbean Diaspora, contributes to the long-term growth and the viability of Canada’s visitor economy and our larger national economy by attracting more tourists both domestically and internationally.”

Festival Management Committee chair and chief executive officer Joe Halstead paid tribute to several Caribana pioneers who passed away in the last year.

They include Preston Shepherd, a former Organization of Calypso Performing Artists (OCPA) president and treasurer and ex-director of the Ontario Steelpan Association, and Kathy Searles, who served on the Caribbean Centennial Committee board in 1967 and persuaded her daughters to take her from her hospital bed to attend last year’s parade. She died last December.

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