2024 Toronto Caribbean Carnival is officially underway!

 BY STEPHEN WEIR

The Toronto Caribbean Carnival Launch:
A New Era, a New Home, a New Auidence
photo by Gilbert Medina
The ribbon has been cut, the songs have been sung, and the costumes have been strutted. Make no mistake, as of 2 p.m. last Saturday, the 2024 Toronto Caribbean Carnival is officially underway! For the first time this century, the launch was not held at Nathan Phillips Square, and it wasn’t free.

Patrice Roberts sings at opening at right - G. Medina


Still, this change didn’t stop an estimated crowd of 2,000 from traveling out to the Scarborough Town Centre to take in the vibrant costumes, listen to live music, and indulge in Caribbean food.
Speaking outdoors on a temporary parking lot stage, Jennifer Hirlehey, the executive director of the Festival Management Committee (FMC) and the festival, stated, “The FMC has made significant improvements over the last year.” In previous years, when the festival launched at City Hall, many important speakers would appear at Nathan Phillips Square to welcome thousands of festival fans, including American and Caribbean tourists. Regular fixtures included the Mayor, the Prime Minister, the Premier, the police chief, and many island commissioners.

MPP Raymond Cho left
photo by sweir

This year, however, the new location saw only about 60 people seated in front of the stage to hear the Pan Fantasy steel band and a handful of city councilors, Liberal federal MPs, and local Toronto MPPs kick off the parade season.
TV hosts Carol Charles and Jessica Smith (pictured above) from CP24 and CTV News, along with calypso singer King Cosmo and the energetic Lil Jfiyre, kept the launch rolling. However, SKF'S(THE CHAMP) usual “Make Some Noise” call was less successful than in previous years.
Wendy Jones and Pan Fantasy opened the launch -sweir
The launch’s fortunes turned with the arrival of Trinidad’s rising soca star, Patrice Roberts. She arrived on-site at 2 p.m., along with thousands of fans who had seen her perform on the CP24 Breakfast Show. Roberts came to the carnival launch to officially cut the ribbon and perform. Those empty seats suddenly filled, and there was truly dancing on the street.
photo by sweir
“Toronto has been very important in my growth and the growth of soca music. I am honoured to be the official ribbon cutter at the launch of Toronto Caribbean Carnival,” Roberts, dressed in a revealing low-cut black and silver dress, shouted as she snipped a long colorful ribbon. Dr. Jay, Toronto’s Soca Prince MC, helped Roberts perform on stage. Despite the blistering heat, she jumped, danced, and sang in front of a screaming audience.
“The FMC would know the number of people in the audience,” Dr. Jay told the Caribbean Camera, “but yes, Patrice sang as well as Preedy and Wuss Ways too!”
Patrice, or Auntie Pat as she is known, did not stay long. She left to prepare for her sold-out “I Am Woman” performance at the Rebel Night Club on Polson Pier.
The party didn’t stop after Patrice left the stage. The Mas bands brought their costume players on stage, and the calypso singers and pan orchestras returned to entertain the crowd.
What did the audience think about the new venue? Most people who spoke with the Caribbean Camera appreciated the change. They enjoyed the ample free parking, TTC connections, and the festive atmosphere in Scarborough rather than downtown.
However, some critics didn’t appreciate the introduction of an entrance fee (the launch had always been free in the past) and found the event disorganized. There were bands indoors in the mall, an outdoor stage, and a third area a ten-minute walk away where bands displayed and sold their costumes (which we never reached)

King Cosmos (left)

“Energy and vibes just LEVELLED UP! Get ready for the main event. You and your crew gotta register to join Epic on the road – don’t miss out! Let’s goooo!” wrote Epic Mas about the day.
The ribbon has been cut, the songs have been sung, and the costumes have been strutted. Make no mistake, the 2024 Toronto Caribbean Carnival is officially underway!

Pictures by sweir and Gilbert Medina.


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