Bloomberg News: Reggae Music, Wild Parade Send ‘Vibe’ Through Toronto Caribana

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This story crossed Bloomberg's wire this morning. The feature is the first time in my memory of Scotiabank Caribana (going back 10 years before it was even called Scotiabank) that a business news service has looked at the festival. I obviously didn't write it, but, Bloomberg did use a few of my photographs.


Socca Music, Wild Parade Send ‘Vibe’ Through Toronto Caribana

By Sean B. Pasternak

July 22 (Bloomberg) -- Mention Toronto and steel drums, Carnival and reggae music probably aren’t the first things that come to mind. From July 14 through Aug. 3, however, Canada’s biggest city opens up for Scotiabank Caribana, which promotes itself as North America’s largest celebration of Caribbean culture.
Now in its 42nd year, Caribana gives 1.3 million local residents and tourists the chance to see buttoned-down Toronto letting loose, as this year’s slogan -- “Won’t Stop De Vibe” -- suggests.
Caribana is best known for its signature parade, set for Aug. 1. Rambunctious crowds line the streets to cheer folks decked out in outlandish, colorful costumes, many featuring headdresses and sparkling fringes, dancing to steel drums and Calypso music. About 25,000 people (including local son and Miami Heat center Jamaal Magloire) are expected to take part in the parade.
Opening tomorrow and running through Aug. 3, the Royal Ontario Museum is hosting “Beyond the Rhythm,” an exhibition of works by 25 Caribbean and African-Canadian artists, among others. The king and queen of Caribana will be crowned on July 30; the next day there will be a battle of the steelpan bands at Lamport Stadium.

Crucial Boon

The festival serves as a crucial boon to tourism, which has been declining from the financial crisis and tighter passport controls at the U.S.-Canadian border. Hotel occupancy in Toronto was down 10 percent at the end of May compared with a year earlier, Tourism Toronto spokesman Andrew Weir said.
Last year’s Caribana had an impact of about C$300 million ($271.4 million) on Toronto’s economy, according to festival organizers.
In addition to a record C$1.3 million in public subsidy, Caribana has received an increase in endorsements from Canadian businesses, said Joe Halstead, the festival’s chief executive officer.
Bank of Nova Scotia, the country’s third-biggest bank in assets, is the event’s title sponsor, while BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. is also a sponsor.
The festival, patterned on Trinidad and Tobago’s famed Carnival, began in 1967, when the federal government asked the Caribbean community to get involved in Canada’s centennial celebrations. (Today, the Caribbean population is about 225,000, or 4.5 percent of Greater Toronto’s 5.5 million people.)

Biggest Events

Since then, Caribana has grown from “a kitchen-table operation that can be driven by volunteers after work,” to one of the city’s biggest annual events as measured by attendance, along with June’s Pride parade and September’s Toronto International Film Festival, Halstead said.
“Toronto is a richer place to live because of the contributions made by the people of the Caribbean community,” Scotiabank Chief Executive Officer Richard Waugh wrote in a program. The Toronto-based lender calls itself the largest bank in the Caribbean, and opened a branch in Kingston, Jamaica in 1889 -- 10 years before it operated in Toronto.
“Caribana is more than just a great celebration,” Toronto City Manager Joe Pennachetti told reporters July 15. “The city has worked closely with organizers to ensure it moves ahead.” He was referring to a strike by 24,000 municipal workers that began June 22 and has halted garbage pick-up across the city.
“One of Toronto’s strongest cultural expressions is the variety and diversity of cultures,” Halstead, 64, said in an interview. “Caribana is one of those pieces that make up that culture.”
For more details on Scotiabank Caribana, see http://www.caribanafestival.com
To contact the reporter on this story: Sean B. Pasternak in Toronto at spasternak@bloomberg.net.

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