Caribana to get $400,000 Celebrate Ontario grant



Caribana will receive the maximum $400,000 under the Celebrate Ontario initiative for this summer’s festival.

Provincial Minister of Tourism and Culture Michael Chan made the announcement last Thursday at the opening reception of the Festivals and Events Ontario industry association’s annual conference in Markham.

This is the second time that Caribana is obtaining funding under the program launched in December 2006 to boost tourism in Ontario by helping festivals and events enhance their products with new experiences that lead to long-term improvements to attract greater audiences.

The provincial government provided $300,000 in 2008 to help North America’s largest street festival increase promotion in Canada, the United States and the rest of the world.

Festival Management Committee (FMC) chief executive officer Denise Herrera-Jackson and chief administrative officer Christopher Alexander were in the audience when Chan made the announcement. The FMC runs the annual Caribana festival.

“This is great news,” said Herrera-Jackson. “It is however just one step since we have made applications to all three levels of government for funding for the 2011 event.”

Caribana is one of 231 recipients of 2011 Celebrate Ontario funding which will total some $20 million.

“Tourism is a billion dollar business that supports over 300,000 jobs,” said Chan. “Festivals and events play a key role in attracting visitors, supporting jobs and generating economic activity while enhancing our quality of life in communities across Ontario.”

Other festivals and events that will receive the maximum $400,000 Celebrate Ontario funding include The Toronto International Film Festival, Pride Toronto/Pride Week, the CMT Country Music Festival, Hockeyfest, Havelock Country Jamboree, Sarnia Rogers Bayfest, the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival, North by Northeast, the Rogers Cup Tennis Tournament, Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest and the Raj Kapoor Celebrations.

An Ipsos Reid study released nearly a year ago showed that Caribana generated $483 million for the provincial economy in 2009, drawing about 1.2 million festival-goers from Toronto and around the world.

Yet the festival, in its 44th year, has been severely underfunded. Last year, Caribana was shut out of Celebrate Ontario and the federal government’s Marquee Tourism Events Program funding, a two-year stimulus initiative designed to boost events that attract tourists.

While not downplaying the significance of government contributions, Herrera-Jackson said finding new ways to generate revenue is one of the FMC’s principal goals this year.

“That’s our strategy because the reality is we are living in challenging economic times and government funding is declining,” she said. “We are also looking at forming partnerships to increase our revenue. We don’t want to invent the wheel but if a group comes to us with an opportunity that is viable where we can share the costs and we will make money, we will definitely look at the proposal.”

The FMC is collaborating with a Toronto sports franchise on a sport-themed production to be held during this year’s Caribana celebrations.

“I cannot divulge the name of the franchise as yet because we are still in negotiations, but they came to us and it will be something new,” Herrera-Jackson said.

She and Alexander are in Trinidad & Tobago for the Caribbean islands’ annual Carnival which took place on Monday and Tuesday of this week. They were expected to meet with organizers of the T & T, Miami, New York and London’s Notting Hill carnivals during their one-week business trip.

“We have a T & T-style carnival here and we are always looking at ways to make improvements,” Alexander said. “We want to see what we can take from them and use here to enhance what we do. Everybody knows about carnival in Trinidad & Tobago, but it’s not that way as yet in Canada as many people still don’t really understand a lot about the culture…This is also a good opportunity to network with other carnival organizers.”

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