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Summertime in Toronto: It’s time for Carnival

It’s summertime Toronto! And while there are many festivals being hosted this year, one of the most notable events (and one that shouldn’t be missed) is Toronto’s Caribbean Carnival. This year, the exciting street festival will be celebrating 50 years —50 beautiful years of shared cultures, music, costume, dance, and yummy Caribbean foods.

Formally known as ‘Caribana,’ this Caribbean festival is one of the biggest events in North America with guests from the United States and various Caribbean islands.

If you are unfamiliar with the culture of Carnival itself, traditions date back to the abolition of slavery on August 1 in 1834, in the British Caribbean territories. The first noted display of Carnival in the Caribbean was in the late 18th century, on the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Trinidad’s Carnival is often held right before Lent on the Christian calendar, as the word Carnival itself means “farewell to meat”. To this day, Trinidad remains a focal point of Caribbean festivities, producing the catchiest Soca beats and featuring the most intricately designed costumes. However, most countries have moved away from the traditional Lenten celebration and have chosen to feature the festival during the summer months.

Carnival yellow blue green

These traditions have spread globally and have made a big impression in Toronto, a city already known for being culturally diverse.  The Caribbean diaspora in Toronto also helps to keep the Toronto Caribbean Carnival season alive with locally-based costume designers that organize events for the public to play Mas in the streets. Some local costume designers and bands that will be displaying their work on the streets during this years festival include, Tribal Carnival , Carnival Nationz, Louis Saldenah, Toronto Revellers, and Venom Carnival just to name a few.

Carnival red outfit

In all, the festival stretches four weeks, with activities starting on July 7 and ending with the final event on Aug. 6.

If you want a true, wild, and exciting taste of Carnival, the grand parade on August 5 will be the main highlight, as colourful bands, costumes, and joyful revellers take over the parade route along the Toronto Lakeshore. This may be overwhelming for some, but Women’s Post has five tips to help you enjoy your first Toronto Caribbean Carnival experience.

  1. Get a costume: Carefully plan and organize the Toronto Caribbean Carnival events you would like to participate in. If you want to play Mas in the streets with a registered band, you must buy one of the designated band costumes and follow their procedures. Paying and registering for a band is better than being a street ‘stormer’ crashing the party. Otherwise dance from the sidelines.
  2. Remember to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate ! This August is marked to be one of the hottest summer months in Toronto and partying in the sun for extended hours can be draining and dehydrating.
  3. Wear sunblock: It’s that simple. No matter your ethnicity.
  4. Monitor your belongings: The streets will be busy and if you will be dancing and having fun, keep the minimal and essential things you need close to your body.
  5. Have Fun! : Put your inhibitions aside for one day and party in the streets to lively Caribbean music, dance, move your hips and don’t be too shocked if a fellow party-er will come to give you a wine or two ( not the drink but an actual dance where you gyrate your hips ).

Let us know how you are preparing for this year’s Carnival and leave some comments below. Enjoy the fetes !

Why should you send your kid to summer camp?

It’s that time of year again! The trees are starting to bloom, the birds are chirping, and grass is getting greener — yes, it means school is almost out.

Have you given any thought about what your kids are going to do in July and August while you are at work? Sure, they can stay home and watch television, but why not sign them up for a summer camp instead!

It can be a bit traumatic, to send your young child to summer camp for the first time, but the overall benefits of this type of experience are immeasurable. Kids will spend a week (or a weekend) playing outdoors, building lifelong friendships, developing their creativity, and experimenting with their leadership skills. There is also something to be said about getting away from technology for a week and enjoying life without being glued to an electrically charged screen.

Jackie Carmichael, the managing director of programs at Muskoka Woods, started going to camp when she was nine years old — and she loved it so much she never truly left. It was, however, a rough start.

“My parents sent me and my brother to camp for a week and I absolutely hated it. I was homesick. I did not do well. I had fun during the day, but night time was really hard.”

“The next summer I loved it though! I started going longer. I went until I was 15 and then at 16 I did the leadership program called CEO.”

The Challenge Experience Opportunity (CEO) is a month-long intensive program offered at Muskoka Woods that focuses on leadership and personal development. It can even be applied to a grade 11 school credit!

For kids younger than 16, there are a number of fun and exciting summer camps being offered this year, and there is something for everyone. Muskoka Woods alone offers over 50 different types of activities from sports, crafts, photography, culinary, and video production.

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Photo provided by Muskoka Woods

It’s always going to be tough the first time you send your kid to camp, but after that first experience they are bound to come back home with lots of energy and a better understanding of who they are. The best part about summer camp, Carmichael says, is the confidence it gives kids at a young age. Being told they are good at a certain activity, being allowed to experiment and try new things — all of this is important for child development and generates positive attitudes.

“Our vision at Muskoka Woods is to inspire youth to shape their world. We really like to celebrate that and recognize kids who are doing wonderful things. At the same time, we would feel so much more excited and happy if they walk away saying they feel more like themselves. That’s a success for us.”

One of the great thing Muskoka Woods has to offer is something called CITYCAMP, a mobile day camp that spends a week in 15 different locations across Ontario throughout the months of July and August. Kids participating in CITYCAMP will have the opportunity to try archery, skateboarding, paintball, nature experiences, and even have a bit of portable waterslide fun! This way, kids who can’t make it all the way to the Lake Rosseau resort will have the opportunity to have the camp experience.

It can be nerve-wracking leaving your kids at their first overnight camp, but the benefits certainly outweigh the anxiety it may create. Sometimes, kids just need to be on their own to realize their full potential. Summer camp is the perfect outlet for this type of experimentation.

For more information about CITYCAMP, or any of the other summer camps offered by Muskoka Woods, visit their website. Prices range from $240-350 per week, depending on location.  Registration is now open!