Caribana 2019 x Dream Carnival Review
*Disclaimer: this post is from my personal experience of Toronto's annual Caribbean Festival (Caribana) and my personal experience with Dream Carnival.
* Toronto Caribbean Festival (Caribana) is a dry carnival. Because of government regulations, alcohol is not served on the road.
The 53rd Annual Toronto Caribbean Festival has come and gone and Tabanca is truly setting in. The Toronto Caribbean Festival a.k.a Caribana has been a summer staple in the City of Toronto since its conception in 1967, when Toronto's Caribbean community gifted the celebration to commemorate Canada's Centennial Celebration.
Caribana has always been a significant cultural event for me since I was a child. I remember going to the parade and watching everyone in their beautiful costumes singing and dancing the day away wishing and waiting for my time to come.
Like the majority of carnival revelling women in Toronto and the GTA, I couldn't wait to see the anticipated Band Launches that would unofficially kick-off the carnival season. I attended a couple of Band Launches, but in the end I decided to go with a new band that was making their carnival debut. Dream Carnival, lead and designed by Brittany Dardaine came out with a captivating virtual Band Launch. Their costumes were nothing like I've seen at Caribana, they were modern and stylish but still gave you that traditional carnival look and vibe. Along with their gorgeous costumes, the bands marketing was on top compared to the more veteran bands, their marketing roll out came out with a bang! promising their masqueraders 3 big Soca artists; Machel Mantano, Nessa Preppy and Motto on their truck, along with well known international Soca DJs.
Leading up to the parade day I was starting to get a little anxious, Dream Carnival had yet to mention or post anything about costume pick-up times. Because of the FMC (Festival Management Committee) a lot of the bands had to push back or delay their pick-up times, which then caused people to become impatient because people had to miss fetes,parties and even call in for work. Dream Carnival had pushed back their pick-up times twice which added to the annoyance, giving masqueraders only 3 days before the parade( 1 day per section) to pick up their costumes. Along with that, masqueraders who had purchased a feathered backpack for Frontline costumes received an email saying that the band was unable to get the feathers in time and would be offering refunds to those who didn't want the alternative backpack.
When I arrived at Dream Carnival's Mas Camp, there was a line up outside the camp door as they were taking people's name, getting their costume and doing the distribution outside instead of inside of the camp. I was hoping this would be an organized pick up and be quick and seamless, I was wrong. I waited in line for 3 hours before someone on their team came around taking down names and handing out juice boxes. Fortunately for me, 30-45 mins after I gave someone my name, I received my full costume. I ordered the Backline Mirage costume with the Collar add on. At first glance, I got all the pieces that were advertised and paid for, but all I got from them was a plain white box with my costume and wristbands in it, no goodie bag or anything. The collar I had paid for didn't exactly look like the one I saw at the showroom, the jewels on it were completely different and the collar could have been a lot more fuller, but none the least, I got my costume.
Saturday morning I believe masqueraders were told to be at the meeting spot for 10 am, my crew and I didn't get there until about 12:45 pm. We decided to take our time, eat breakfast and lime before we headed out on the road. By the time we got to Dufferin Gate (meet up spot), we saw Dream Carnival masqueraders getting all lined up heading out for the road.
I have to say, with all the drama with Dream Carnival, their road experience saved them. We had DJ Back to Basics, Young Chow, Ryan Syeed and Tony X keeping everyone hyped, chippin' and wukkin. The drinks truck had an endless supply of water and juice, and security kept all the Stormers away. This was my first time playing Caribana where my band had security/marshalls who were actively kicking out people who weren't part of the band.
This year the FMC changed the parade route, making it longer than it uses to be. I like the new route, it just needs some getting used to. Since Dream Carnival is a non-competing band our costumes weren't getting judged, which allowed us to be able to stop for a lunch break halfway through the parade compared to the bigger bands who had to wait until they crossed the stage. Stopping for a lunch break was a good idea, the sun was hot and the combination of the new long route and pumping non-stop led to everyone getting hungry. Alijandro's Food Truck provided Dreamers with the option of chicken or mushroom with rice, roasted chickpeas, beans, tomatoes and lettuce. The meal was small but it did a good job at fueling everyone back up for the road. Along with that, they had Eva's Orginal dessert truck providing us with Ice Cream in a Churro cone. After filling up our belly's we continued to chip up the Lakeshore until the truck stopped. Because of Toronto's relentless Stormers and their lack of respect for Mas and the Parade, judging had been prolonged leaving us at the end of the route stagnant. After an hour or two our band leader decided to remove the barriers since we weren’t going to be moving anytime soon and let the show begin.
Machel Mantano, Nessa Preppy and Motto shelled thee road!! it was the perfect way to end the road before the rain started falling.
In the end, I was very pleased with how Dream Carnival handled the road, especially because of all the drama that lead up to parade day. I won't lie and say I didn't have my doubts about them and playing in a 1st-year band, especially one that had made a lot of big promises to their masqueraders.
Do I think a lot of their problems could have been easily avoided? Yes. Do I think they could have been a lot more organized? Yes. Do I think they should have been more transparent, communicated and engaged more with their masqueraders? Absolutely. Will I play with them again? To be honest, I don't know. As much as I enjoyed pumping on the road with Dream and the quality of the bodywear of my costume, there’s still a lot of work that needs to happen internally with them. If they can work out all their kinks, get on top of project management and honour and resolve any disputes with their masqueraders from this summer, I can see Dream Carnival making a come back in Toronto's Caribbean Festival.
CARIBANA WEEK EVENTS TO ATTEND
Soca or Die
Thursday Day Party
Thursday Night Party
Friday Night Mas
Drink Inclusive Night Parade
Jab Jab Jouvert
SOS Fest - Carnival Kingdom
Sunday Day Party
Toronto’s Rum Festival
Sunday Day Festival
“I’ve been playing mas for 10 years over seas and in caribana (which I’ve played the most). So the unprofessionalism and disorganization for caribana as a whole is nothing new to me sadly. But this year took the cake with Dream Carnival. Just to sum it up I didn’t receive my feathers or the right size costume either. The costume pick up was horrendous in every aspect from the way they set up the pickup, the lack of people they had helping etc. The road did somewhat make up for it. Food was 7 : (extra points for the dessert truck)
Music 9 : ( I didn’t hear the same 3 songs)
Security 10 : This was something that made the experience so much better. Other bands were complaining about stormers and we had none for the longest time till we got to the end of the evening. That rope security held around the band like how they have in other carnivals over seas is the smartest idea to keep stormers OUT ! Then when Machel started to perform all the stormers came. Which is understandable everyone wants to see the monk (especially for free).
Overall my experience was a 4/10. I still have yet to receive my refund after emailing them. For my costume which they said to do”
“It was my very first Caribana and I had a blast, definitely going again next year. I absolutely love my outfit from Dream Carnival it was a perfect fit”
Did you play Mas in Caribana? Share your experience down below.