Hundreds of masqueraders celebrated Caribbean culture Saturday during the annual Cariwest parade.
Twelve colourful floats made their way down Jasper Avenue, each one including dozens of dancers. The parade has been a staple in Edmonton for 34 years.
“I wait for this all year long,” said Sherelle George, a masquerader who helped organize the parade. “It’s the ultimate celebration of our culture!”
This year’s event became mired in controversy when organizers said the city refused to increase their beer garden`s capacity.
“On Saturday, there were huge lineups after the parade because we have a huge amount of people that come down and are thirsty,” added George.
Annamaria Edwards, president of the Western Carnival Development Association, which produces CariWest, said despite bringing the issue up with the city multiple times, she did not receive a definitive answer about why maximum capacity remained low. She also said the rum garden is critical for the festival’s sustainability.
On Friday afternoon, city officials told Global News that it had decided to increase the beer garden’s capacity.
“It just came to my attention,” said Julie Stormer, supervisor of festivals and events for the City of Edmonton, when asked what had changed.
When pressed by Global News about how CariWest organizers said they brought it up repeatedly with city officials, including during a meeting on Thursday, Edwards reiterated her earlier response.
“I wasn’t aware that 750 wasn’t adequate so when I was, we responded.”
Stormer said the capacity now will be 932, with the possibility it will increase even more in the future.
She said the change came about partly because of questions from Global News.
“I want to be able to work with festivals. I encouraged CariWest to just reach out to me and talk to me directly if they have some concerns about that. I want to be able to come up with solutions prior to their festival date,” Stormer said.
When reached Friday afternoon, Edwards said that she was satisfied with the increased capacity, adding she is glad that she has been heard by the city. She told Global News earlier that her ideal capacity for the beer gardens would have been 1,500.
“The rum garden is the main source of revenue that helps us keep our festival going,” Edwards said. “The city promised to keep the discussion open so we can look at expanding it so it’s more in line with what other festivals have for a rum garden.”
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