The sexiest and most sensual festival of the capital region is nearly upon us. The 33rd annual Cariwest Caribbean Arts Festival starts Friday and it’s time to join in, let loose and have a blast.
“We don’t want it to be just a party. We also want to share our arts and traditions – calypso, the steel pan bands and the mas (masquerade),” says AnnaMaria Edwards, president of the Western Carnival Development Association.
A major tourist destination, Cariwest now attracts more than 80,000 visitors.
“It came out of a need for people of Caribbean descent to share their culture and experience things they loved and brought to Canada,” Edwards explains.
In keeping with Canada’s 150th anniversary, this year’s theme is Love and Unity: One Big Family. It was designed as a way to share the Caribbean’s heritage and culture as part of the multiculturalism we embrace.
“One big family. That’s what you find when you go down there. There’s no difference between us. We enjoy the music, the food, the dancing and we all have a good time,” notes Edwards.
This all-sensory celebration, happening Aug. 11 to 13, encourages visitors to chow down on Caribbean delicacies and dance to calypso and funky reggae performed by some of the best steel pan bands in North America.
The big public draw is the Saturday parade travelling down Jasper Ave. Comprised of 14 mas (masquerade) bands, the masqueraders show off their glittery, feathery costumes while performing riveting choreography.
“It opens your eyes to experience another culture. But one of the main things is it’s colourful and when I see the costumes come in, it takes my breath away.”
In a capsule, the festival showcases a Friday night costume extravaganza.
“Five kings and five queens compete for title of King and Queen of the Mas Bands. The Friday night extravaganza is just a souped-up version of the street mas.”
Saturday starts off with a street mas parade that ends at Churchill Square’s Caribbean Village, a chunk of concrete temporarily transformed into a vibrant, welcoming island.
Traditional Caribbean cuisine, lively entertainment from a range of steel pan bands and a marketplace selling artisanal crafts runs all day Saturday and Sunday.
One of the best ways to sample the easy-going, fun-loving Caribbean lifestyle is to munch on a cross-section of dishes from various island countries.
“Our cuisine is very savoury, aromatic and spiced. It’s a blend of different ethnic cultures that have come together – Africa, East India, European, Chinese, Spanish and Indigenous. It’s quite a mixture.”
Entertainment runs throughout the weekend featuring dance groups, drummers, deejays, soca bands and the sweet sounds of steel pans.
The Saturday street mas starts at noon on 108 St. and 100 Ave. The parade heads east on Jasper Ave., turning north on 100 St. to Sir Winston Churchill Square.
The Caribbean Village runs Saturday and Sunday from noon to 11 p.m.
For more information visit cariwest.ca.
Friday, Aug. 11 to Sunday, Aug. 13
Sir Winston Churchill Square