A Brief History Of Toronto's Caribana Festival

Bringing the moves
Bringing the moves | © KatieThebeau/Flickr
Culture Trip

The Caribana Festival, known to the locals as Toronto’s celebration of Caribbean culture and traditions, is one of the largest cultural festivals in North America, bringing in over two million people each year. What once started as a three-day festival under the name Canadian Centennial is now a massive party that lasts three weeks in the summer. Read on to discover how this 1960’s festival became the giant celebration that it is today.
The Toronto Caribana Festival began in 1967 as one of the first Caribbean festivals held outside of the tropical area. The celebration, called the Canadian Centennial at the time, was meant to share West Indian and Black Canadian culture and traditions with the community and to help fund the building of a West Indian cultural centre. Molding the festival after the Trinidad and Tobago Festival, ‘Caribana ’67 Week‘ was announced on July 2nd by the newly created Caribbean Centennial Committee, developed as a means for organizing the details of the newly implemented celebration. The festival was set to take place August 5-12, 1967 at Olympic Island, Toronto Islands.

Clifford Clarence Campbell (left) visited Caribana in its final day

The carnival would represent the cultures of the ten main Caribbean islands in addition to Bermuda and Guyana, with performances by steel bands and a parade – much of the music associated with the event showcased the soca, steelpan and calypso. Other events would include dancing, films, stage acts, drama, kids’ and adults’ carnivals and nightclub events along with other things like ferry cruises, fashion shows, fruit and vegetable markets showcasing Caribbean produce and a waterskiing festival.

A 1968 advertisement for the Caribana festival

The first day of the festival kicked off with a ‘carnival-style’ parade – bright and lavish costumes, decorated floats and five calypso bands drumming on steel drums – which was an open parade that would allow anyone to join in the celebration. The concert held the next day showcased Trinidadian performers and was so popular that over 32,000 people attended, making it the one of the best events of the year; however, due to rain, the event was extended to the following Sunday when an additional 3,000 people attended. The success of the festival attracted Caribbean leaders as well as stage and musical acts who came to dance in the parade and garnered strong support from the city and citizens of all ethnicities, making this one-off celebration into an annual affair.

Held at various locations across Toronto. Check website for more details and schedule of events.
By Culture Trip Toronto

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article