The sites and sounds of Carifiesta 2007 hit the streets of Montreal on Saturday as the participants swayed to the rhythms and the beats of the Caribbean.
Montreal is a vibrant city that loves its festivals and street fairs. Carifiesta is nestled between the Montreal International Jazz Festival and the Just For Laughs Montreal International Comedy Festival.
In this, the 33rd event to grace our streets, the costumes once again dazzled as the participants gyrated their way down Rene Levesque Blvd with costumes either skimpy and revealing in nature or elaborate, heavy and grandiose in design.
I've had the pleasure of covering the event for television for several years and it's always nice to see how the event has progressed, despite some of the internal turmoil it has had over the years.
Before the start of this year's event I bumped into an old friend, Matthew Cope, who is a screenwriter, photographer and journalist. He is someone that I learned a lot from in the early part of my career.
Matthew's pictures from just before the start of this year's Carifiesta are the ones that grace this posting but they only scratch the surface as to what this event is and what it means to the community.
The picture above for instance is Lenore Caterson. For three decades she has been one of the major highlights of the event, the undisputed queen of Carifiesta. Her costumes are elaborate and are usually quite heavy and like the adopted motto of the post office, she manages to dance her way through rain, sleet and dark of night, not to mention high heat, heavy humidity and strong winds.
These two pictures above however show the future of Carifiesta. Each year there is a junior carnival leading up to Carifiesta where youngsters can also strut their stuff in costume. As it has been in the past, the junior participants of today are the ones who become the "mas" leaders of the future, guaranteeing a strong base for the survival of this event in the future.
As with any event that draws a large crowd, there is of course police and security. What's different in 2007 from three decades ago is the city has begun to understand the unique qualities of Carifiesta and its community, and there certainly is a subtle change in the "face" of some of the officers assigned to the detail. Not only are they officers of colour with Caribbean backgrounds (something that didn't even exist on the force way back when), but after speaking with a few of them and some folks in the crowd it was clear that they seem to enjoy and appreciate the duty as did many of the revellers.
Montreal's Carifiesta is part of a greater series of such Caribbean events in North America that include Toronto's Caribana plus similar events in Ottawa, Boston and Miami just to name a few.
The recently formed World Carnival Commission, whose president is Henry Antoine, the Executive Director of Montreal Carifiesta, is working hard to bring many of these festivals together working in collaboration with the original venue - the granddaddy of them all, February's Carnival in Trinidad. If the organizational skills needed to pull this off are successful, it bodes well for the future of not only Carifiesta but the growth of such events throughout North America.
It's a proud time for the Caribbean community.
That’s the Stuph - the way I see it.