They all have in one way or another made a major contribution to Caribana over the past four decades. Some have been toiling in the background without any fanfare while others have been in the limelight with mas bands and steelpan orchestras. The collective input of George Freckleton, Natasha Bostic, Earl LaPierre, Errol Achue and Kathleen Mills-Reece to North America’s largest street festival is truly invaluable.
The five were honoured at the third annual Caribana gala last Friday night at the Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex.
“I enjoy serving and I believe in leaving a legacy,” said Jamaican-born Freckleton, who has been an event volunteer since 1980. His duties include installing and dismantling corporate banners at the King & Queen and Pan Alive events at Lamport Stadium and along the Lakeshore parade route. He also assists with security.
“It can be quite challenging sometimes, but I relish what I do,” he said. “It’s fun and it’s a way of giving back…I spent two years in England in the early 1970s during which time I attended the Notting Hill event and got hooked on carnivals. That was my introduction and how I became involved.”
Outgoing Festival Management Committee (FMC) chair Joe Halstead said Freckleton and the other recipients fully deserve the honour bestowed on them.
“They are the ones that I think are really deserving of any recognition that come their way,” he said. “Nobody knows who some of these people are and they will never make the headlines as others. Their work however is priceless.”
Bostic is a former Organization of Calypso Performing Artists (OCPA) president and Mills-Reece – the winner of the second Kathy Searles memorial award – has been involved with Caribana since the early 1970s when she was a board member. She has also served as parade marshal, kiddies carnival chair and vice-chair and King & Queen and kiddies carnival judge.
Searles, who died in December 2008, made an extensive and continuous contribution to Caribana from its inception in 1967 when she served on the Caribbean Centennial Committee board up until two years ago when she attended the parade.
Achue is a former Ontario Mas Producers Association executive committee member who attended the first Caribana parade in 1967 while visiting the city and LaPierre is a leading steelpan arranger and teacher.
Joe Mihevc, the city’s liaison to Caribana, paid tribute to Halstead and chief financial officer Edison Doyle both of whom are stepping down after this year’s event. Denise Herrera-Jackson (who will be the new chair) and Chris Alexander are their replacements.
The net proceeds from the gala will be used to provide scholarships for Haitian students pursuing post-secondary education in Canada.