Toronto: It's Caribbean Carnival Time

Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival TorontoCarnival is celebrated during the pre-Lent period in countries with a Catholic tradition. Americans are familiar with Mardi Gras in New Orleans. As Rita Hayworth put it in the title role her blockbuster movie Gilda, before the austere Lenten season, it's:

"In other words, make hay while the sun shines."

The carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is also known all over the world. In some parts of the Antilles that originally had Spanish or French influences (e.g. Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, St. Lucia), carnival has a Caribbean flair. It is celebrated with road march parades in which costumed dancers join calypso, soca and steel bands. It is not surprising that carnival festivals have moved north with people from the Caribbean who have migrated to Toronto.

In Toronto, a summer Caribbean carnival has been celebrated in early August since 1967 since 1967. For years, it was known as Caribana and run by the Caribbean Cultural Committee (CCC), a nonprofit organization. The Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival Toronto (@TO_carnival) is now a 3-week summer festival. Companies can add some sizzle to their corporate events and incentive trips by coming to Toronto during carnival season.

It's impossible to capture the color and pageantry of carnival in words. So, take a peek:

A carnival king and queen competition, a kiddie's carnival, the grand parade in which Toronto residents and visitors line Lakeshore Blvd. for one massive party, costumes, fabulous floats, music and Caribbean cuisine all combine to create Toronto's most colorful summer festival. There is also a charity gala and a number of concerts. The closing church service takes place at St. James Cathedral.

Toronto CarnicalThere are many ways for companies to get involved.

  • Join a Mas camp.
  • Watch the parade and "jump up" with the other revelers who "come out to play".... play mas that is (it's free)
  • Reserve space for your group in a tent in the VIP area where the judging takes place.
  • Party at Exhibition place where the parade begins and ends. There is an admission fee for entrance to the orange zone that is reserved for paid patrons.
  • Participate as a contributing sponsor or sponsor.

What Event Planners can Learn From Caribbean Carnivals

Event planners who want to add a splash of excitement to conferences and corporate events can pick up some pointers from Caribbean carnivals.

  1. Use a vibrant colour palette.
  2. Nothing engages like music. Use a variety of music.
  3. Costumes are appropriate for spicing up many events.
    Examples: team building, galas, opening dinners, concerts, theatre openings, fundraisers, incentive trips
  4. Brainstorm and find ways to involve the audience and give them an opportunity to participate.
  5. Long lead times increase the likelihood of success.

    Did you know that preparations for next year's carnival begin as soon as this year's carnival is over? That's something to think about in this age of "instant results" and last minute bookings.
  6. Incorporate the arts.
    Carnivals integrate visual art, theatre, and, at times, even puppetry.

Remember, a jump-up with costumed dancers is a great way to kick off a conference and lead the audience into the main event space when the breakfast break is over. For a unique break, take the group outside for a Caribbean-style dance warm-up led by dancers in costumes.

Places to Play Mas....Outside the Caribbean

Photo Credit: Brian Ridgway

To learn more about meeting and event planning in Toronto, visit the Toronto Cvent Destination Guide.

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