For Natasha Pierre, the colours and costumes of Toronto’s Caribbean Carnival represent long-awaited freedom following years of pandemic restrictions and cancellations.
“The costumes are freedom, this is freedom through two years of rough pandemic,” she told Global News. “So let’s celebrate again.”
The costumes and festivities from the Caribbean Carnival are back on Lake Shore Boulevard West after a two-year hiatus.
The 2022 celebration, attended by thousands of party-goers, marks the 55th such event. It is one of many festivals that have returned this summer, including The Taste of Little Italy and Pride.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said the event is an important part of the city’s appeal as a diverse and multicultural place to live.
“It’s important in this city that we understand each other’s backgrounds and celebrate everything we’ve got going on here,” Tory said. “And I hope as well that they take away this is a great place to live.”
The festival is a large tourist attraction for Toronto with many attendees travelling to the city from across North America to celebrate the festival’s return.
Felicia Williams, who travelled to Toronto from Alabama to attend her first Carnival said “it means the world” to be able to celebrate different cultures and races at the festival after the hiatus.
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Alexander Harold, who is Nigerian, said he travelled to the city from Buffalo, N.Y. because he grew up hearing about the strong Caribbean culture in Toronto.
Roads in downtown Toronto are to remain closed to accommodate the event from 2 a.m. on Saturday to 8 a.m. on Sunday.
Lake Shore Boulevard West is shutdown between Colborne Lodge Drive and Bathurst Street, alongside several north/south roads and the Westbound Gardiner off-ramp to Dunn and Jameson Avenues.
Crowds stretch for kilometres along the parade route, with celebrants setting up lawn chairs and enjoying food from vendors, waiting to catch a glimpse of the glittering costumes and parade floats.
The event has its roots in the Caribbean tradition of street parades founded to celebrate emancipation and freedom from slavery.
In Toronto, it is celebrated on July 30 this year, on the weekend that coincides with Emancipation Day in Canada.
“What the Caribbean community has contributed to Canada is incredible,” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said.
“This is a moment to celebrate that. It’s always in relation to emancipation. So a celebration of freedom, a recognition of history, of the struggles, but of the joy in those struggles and now in celebrating what we have.”
— With files from The Canadian Press