Every year, more than a million tourists descend on Toronto, bringing with them nearly half a billion dollars in economic contributions. The great northern call is Caribana, the biggest Caribbean festival in North America, and an important marker of summer in the 6 since its creation by a committee of West Indian immigrants in 1967. The festival has changed shapes since then, but its current iteration as a two-week-long affair filled with Caribbean food and fêtes, culminating with a float-filled parade along Toronto’s lakeshore, is still an important part of the city’s cultural fabric.
At some point in its decades-long history, though, Caribana became renamed the Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival. The change, which many Torontonians refuse to acknowledge, was emblematic of a larger crisis with tthe event's management. Masqueraders and spectators alike will always wuk and wine, but there has been a palpable shift in the role the festival plays in our city. Take, for instance, the fact that you're just as likely to hear people refer to the first weekend of August as "OVO Weekend," rather than "Caribana Weekend." A 2013 documentary featuring members of Caribana Arts Group, the original non-profit behind the event, explains how the festival switched hands and why its corporization is a bad look for the community. Watch the video above for crucial context about one side of the rippling behind-the-scenes struggle, and then meet me on the road. Happy 'Bana!