Monday, August 3, 2009

Culture: Why Caribana

A closely-spaced set of kings and queens participated in the Caribana Parade under the watchful eye of the CN Tower in Toronto, Ontario on 1-August-2009

TORONTO, ONTARIO - Based on my personality profile and personal history, it wouldn't be expected that I would show up at the Caribana Parade each year. I normally avoid loud, throbbing music rather than seeking it out, I've never been to the Caribbean nor do I have any close friends with ties there, and I generally don't attend events where people are scantily scad.

A butterfly queen was an especially appropriate theme on a day when Monarch butterflies were noted along Lake Ontario, 1-August-2009

So, why do I head down to the shores of Lake Ontario to watch the bulk of the parade each summer? The visual beauty of many of the "king" and "queen" costumes, some of which extend 10 m into the air, clearly are an attraction. Every year, there are new themes to these costumes to enjoy, and the challenge of photographing them around the enormous crowds always adds interest to the day.

A variety of different headdresses were on display as performers slowly made their way down Lake Shore Boulevard West in the Caribana Parade on 1-August-2009

Yet, there's more to it than just watching the parade. For one, parade is rather a misnomer. I've called the Caribana Parade a "moving party" instead of a parade. A disciplined parade with the number of entries in the Caribana Parade that started at 10:00 in the morning would reach the end of the parade route by 14:00. I didn't stick around for the end this year, but nominally, the parade doesn't end until 18:00, and last year it didn't actually end until after 20:00. The trucks and dancers move very slowly along the parade route, stopping for any reason and performing over and over again. As a result, the procession tends to bunch up with gaps of twenty minutes or more between bunches. This actually leads to a very nice rhythm for the observer, as there is time to sneak away and have a meal from one of the many wonderful vendors along the route or wait in line for a restroom between bunches. It is nice, relaxed entertainment.

Bodies of all shapes, sizes, and genders were scantily scad during the Caribana Parade on 1-August-2009

I think what most impresses me about Caribana, though, is the fundamental egalitarian nature of the event. One doesn't have to be a model to participate. Males and females of all body types and varying degrees of fitness all dress for the occasion and head down the parade route, either on a truck or following along the pavement. As a DJ on one of the trucks put it this year, everybody is sexy.

A lion-themed king turned toward the spectators along the Caribana Parade route on 1-August-2009

The combination of all these elements makes for a very enjoyable event, and draws me to show up for at least a good portion of the parade each year.

My full set of pictures from Caribana are currently the featured album on my photo site.

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