Music, dance and costumes take centre stage today at Caribbean Carnival Grand Parade

Lakeshore Boulevard will be filled with colourful, sparkling and feathered characters and the sounds of steel pan Saturday for the Toronto Caribbean Carnival’s Grand Parade.

The event, a celebration of emancipation, is expected to draw thousands of participants and huge crowds of spectators.

Masahda Lochan-Aristide could not be more excited to be walking the parade with her family for the first time. 

She says the event is so much more than a party.

“It’s a celebration of freedom … of emancipation … rooted in the freedom of slaves who were brought over to Trinidad,” she said.

She says the event is wonderful for everyone regardless of cultural background, to learn about each other and take in the fun.

Lochan-Aristide, of Trinidadian descent, and her sisters will be wearing turquoise Princess Jasmine inspired outfits filled with diamonds and sparkles.

Each costume takes hours of work, including jewels sewn on by hand. (Submitted by Masahda Lochan-Aristide)

Each outfit takes hours to make.

“Each jewel on each costume is placed by the hands of the people who are making it. Everything is hand decorated … it takes hours and hours,” said Lochan-Aristide.

Once upon a time is one of the parade themes, so onlookers can expect to take in many different stories, she says.

The sounds of steel pan drums throughout

Stacy Rodriguez is a longtime veteran of Carnival.

“I would say since birth,” she told CBC Toronto. “Mas, pan and calypso are what I equate to the oxygen, blood and soul of the human body.”

Now the event manager for the Ontario Steelpan Association, Rodriquez says she’s honoured to pass on the traditions to the next generation.

“Our youngest, steelpanners are five years old, our oldest steelpanner is well into their centennial,” she said.

Watch | Step inside a carnival costume workshop:

A look inside a Scarborough mas camp ahead of Caribbean Carnival weekend

Mahayah Lochan-Aristide is part of Tribal Carnival and gave CBC Toronto’s Haydn Watters a tour of their mas camp in Scarborough as players made their final preparations.

She says while the roots of Toronto’s Caribbean Carnival are in Trinidad and Tobago, where she was born, it is a welcoming festival for all ages and all cultures to attend and participate. 

“Anyone can learn to play a steel pan. Anyone can learn to put on a costume … how to make the costume. There is no limit or door that is closed,” she said.

Steel pan drums
Steel pan drums are an important part of Toronto’s Caribbean Carnival parade. (Submitted by Stacy Rodriguez)

Festival brings millions of dollars, thousands of jobs

The festival also represents a huge economic boost for the city and businesses.

“This festival is particularly important to Caribbean and Black businesses, because it’s really an opportunity for … the Carnival to showcase them,” said Mischka Crichton, CEO of Toronto Caribbean Carnival.

She says the 2022 festival also contributed more than 3,300 direct jobs. It also contributed around $465 million to Ontario’s GDP.

Crichton expects the number of attendees and participants to be even higher this weekend than last year’s parade weekend as it is easier for everyone to travel, including many American attendees.

“We’re expecting all the numbers to go up,” she said.

Expect road closures

The Grand Parade will begin at 8 a.m. from the Exhibition Place Grounds and travel on Lakeshore Boulevard before returning to the CNE. It will run until 8 p.m., with other festival events continuing into the evening.

Toronto police will keep many roads in the area closed until Sunday morning. These include:

  • Lake Shore Boulevard West from Fort York Boulevard to Colborne Lodge Drive.

  • Lake Shore Boulevard West westbound between Bathurst Street and Fort York Boulevard is open to local traffic only.

  • Strachan Avenue southbound from Fleet Street.

The following Gardiner ramps are also closed Saturday for the parade:

  • Westbound Gardiner Expressway on ramp at Jameson Avenue.

  • Eastbound Gardiner Expressway off ramp on Jameson Avenue.

  • Eastbound Gardiner Expressway on ramps from Jameson Avenue., and Lake Shore Boulevard West at British Columbia Road.

  • Westbound Gardiner Expressway off ramp at Dunn Avenue.

55th Toronto Caribbean Carnival's Grand Parade at the Exhibition Place on July 30, 2022.
Colourful floats and hours of celebration do mean some road closures. The parade will take over a section of Lake Shore Boulevard. (Sabah Rahman/CBC)

The festival doesn’t end with the parade. An International Food Festival and Pan in D’Park featuring steel pan drumming will also take place at Malvern Park beginning at 2 p.m. on Sunday. 

As Crichton fielded phone calls and messages on Friday to solidify every detail for the big final weekend, she told CBC Toronto her big hope for this year was simple, that “the festival will provide an overwhelming sense of joy to every single person.”

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