Dating Sandra George meant that her partner has to play mas’.
If Jim Thatcher did not know it at the time, he soon found out when she ordered their costumes seven years ago for the annual Toronto Carnival.
Playing mas’ since age three in her native Trinidad & Tobago, George has continued the tradition after arriving in the Greater Toronto Area three decades ago.
“It’s in my culture and it’s in my blood,” she said at the 46th annual parade last Saturday at Lakeshore Ave. “I just love it. I played with Connections and Toronto Revellers before joining Carnival Nationz three years ago.”
As for Canadian-born Thatcher, he’s resigned to the fact that he will be jumping up with his partner annually in North America’s largest street festival that attracts thousands of colourfully-clad revellers.
“It’s lots of fun and I enjoy it tremendously,” he said.
Even though they could hardly speak English, friends Rosario Vega and Erika Ramirez were thrilled to be part of the festival.
“This is the second year we are doing this carnival and we love it,” said the parade participants, who jumped up with Connections. “This is big fun.”
Steve Ramsingh has taken part in the parade every year since migrating from T & T 25 years ago.
“I was born on J’ouvert Morning, so carnival has always been part of me,” said Ramsingh, who has been with Carnival Nationz since the mas’ camp started in 2005. “I just love the whole atmosphere and how this event brings together people from all backgrounds for a day of entertainment.”
Finishing fourth in this year’s Queen of the Band competition did not dampen Michelle Reyes’ spirit going into the big parade.
“This is the fourth time I am playing a Queen and I am relishing it,” she said.
Reyes was a member of Louis Saldenah Mas-K Club that won the Toronto Mas Bands Association (TMBA) Band of the Year Award in the “A” category for its portrayal of Heaven and Earth: The Hyper Physical Being.
Carnival Nationz finished five points behind, followed by Toronto Revellers.
Carnival Revolution won the “B” and “C” bands category followed by Concept Costume Creators and D’Regulars.
The Caribbean’s contribution to Canada’s rich multicultural mosaic was showcased in a kaleidoscope of colour and glittering images at the parade.
Nearing five decades since a handful of revellers took part in the first event on Yonge St., 12 bands and several guest outfits paraded their sparkling costumes before the judges and thousands of spectators on an absolutely delightful summer day.
“This event has evolved tremendously,” said founding member, Dr. Maurice Bygrave. “We were worried that the inaugural parade would not be successful, especially since we had no money back then. But it came off with a bang and I can’t believe what’s happening now.
“My only disappointment is that some negative things have happened in the last few years that have taken away from the success of this event. I am hoping and praying that someday down the road, our family will be reunited. I don’t care whether it’s the Caribana Arts Group or the Festival Management Committee, but the family has to be together. In numbers, we will have that much more strength.”
The CAG, which replaced the Caribbean Cultural Committee (CCC), has been claiming ownership of the festival which it ran up until 2006, when the City of Toronto withdrew its funding and created the FMC to run the event.
With the festival mired in controversy and debt at the time, the city and the TMBA – the organization of carnival bandleaders who produce the carnival parade – established the FMC in order to have a more professionally run festival and attract sponsorship.
The CAG has said it has cleaned up its act and is ready to reclaim the festival.