By ARNOLD A. AUGUSTE
While some of us are wondering when, or if, summer will ever show up, there are thousands of Torontonians for whom the weather is of no concern as they enjoy the myriad cultural and musical events taking place all over this amazing city – weekly ethnic festivals, jazz concerts, fundraising walkathons or runs, community barbeques and other similar cultural and social events.
This weekend, however, tops them all.
First, there is Caribana which is already in full swing. The fun continues this evening (Thursday) with the spectacular Carnival Kings and Queens show at Lamport Stadium in Parkdale. This is where the Kings, Queens, Male and Female Individuals of the many carnival bands compete with each other for carnival supremacy.
Each of the carnival bands which will parade down Lakeshore Boulevard on Saturday (where an estimated one million people will converge to watch the spectacular show) has a King, a Queen and at least one Male and one Female Individual. These are the large, magnificently designed and built costumes which will lead their respective bands.
This is a must attend show for carnival lovers and is sold out each year, rain or shine.
On Friday, it is the turn of the steel bands to take centre stage at the annual Pan Alive competition when the best of the bands will compete for top honours.
Of course, the biggie is the parade on Saturday. With an estimated half of those in attendance coming from outside the city and country – most from the United States – this event has, for decades, been a massive money earner for the city’s tourism industry. It is now beginning to get the respect it has deserved for so long.
Caribana, however, is not the only game in town this weekend.
There is the Island Soul festival at Harbourfront which, over the years, has become one of the staples of this long holiday weekend. This year, Island Soul will feature one of the calypso greats from Trinidad and Tobago, the Mighty Shadow, backed by the legendary Roy Cape and the Kaiso All Stars.
Also being featured is Jamaican reggae star, Tony Rebel; Dominica’s Swinging Stars Band; local jazz group, Kalabash and two local steel bands, Pan Fantasy and Silhouettes.
What makes the Harbourfront events even more fun is the fact that they are all free.
Not to be outdone, there are two major events coming out of the Jamaican community.
The TD Canada Trust Irie Music Festival, which marks its eighth anniversary this year, has established itself as the premiere reggae music festival in the city.
Usually, the events – all of which are free, except for a boat cruise this evening, Thursday – are held at both Nathan Phillips Square and Queen’s Park. This year, however, they are all being held at Queen’s Park because of the city workers strike.
Byron Lee’s Dragonaires will present a tribute to the late, great bandleader on August 1 while Gramps Morgan of the acclaimed Morgan Heritage, will be the headline act on August 2. The festival will also include a significant gospel component featuring former dancehall artist, Inspector Lenny and The Toronto Mass Choir, among others, together with a kids zone and the participation of Visions of Science Network for Learning.
The other Jamaican-themed event is the Jambana Cultural Festival at Downsview Park on August 3, featuring Jamaican comedian extraordinaire, Oliver Samuels, the Dragonaires, Jakki James, Baby Boyz, Nana McLean, Marcia Brown, Terri Salmon and Jay Douglas, among others. This event is also free.
Finally, for a truly spiritual renewal, Revivaltime Tabernacle presents its annual Caribbean Gospel Music Festival on August 3 in an open air concert at the church which is in the Dufferin Street-Finch Avenue area. Admission is $12 in advance, $15 at the gate.
So, yes, this is Caribbean Week in T.O., and the biggest party weekend of the year. What’s more, it coincides with the celebration of Emancipation Day on August 1.
No wonder we are in such a party mood!