Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Toronto Carnival 2015 Review

For Toronto Carnival 2015 I was on the road with Saldenah Mas K Club (mas band) presenting the theme “The Chronicles of Machel Montano”. Classic songs of the legendary soca artist Machel Montano inspired each costume section design in the band. If you know me, then you would know it was a live performance by Machel (back in 2006) that made me fall in love with soca and later carnival. Selecting a band this year to play mas with was really was not a hard decision because it was announced that Machel would be performing live with Saldenah during the parade!

Based on the following areas: COSTUME, ROAD EXPERIENCE, and THE PARADE ROUTE, I would give MY Carnival experience a 7.7 / 10 – Here’s Why!

Costume – (10/10)

My Costume Name was “Big Phat Fish”

See song reference below:
If the video link is not visible, please click here:

When I first laid eyes on this costume at the Saldenah costume launch - I instantly fell in love. The details in the bra were the main selling point! I was not crazy about the costume’s accessories (tiara, leg pieces, and arm pieces) but I knew could easily customize those by myself as I do every year. Making my own accessories is a tradition I have for every carnival anyway.

I would like to give a shout out to my section leaders Aaron and Shireen Saldenah for being very professional – costume pick up lasted no more than 10 minutes AND I received a Saldenah water bottle with my costume (very small detail but I appreciated it) 

QUESTION FOR YOU THE READER: Did you receive any goodies, swag, or "free stuff" in your costume bag? I am curious to know which other sections/bands do so besides Dr.Jay & Carnival Nationz? Please Share In The Comment Section Below***

In addition to looking awesome the costume was also strongly made - even my mother noticed how neatly the pieces were sewn and glued. The beauty of the costume showed even more when I assembled with other masqueraders on Carnival Day. The aqua color was not very bright in the sun but the gold accents really stood out - especially on the frontline costumes.





Clearly I made a good choice in selecting Big Phat Fish. Not only was the costume one of the first to sell out with Saldenah, but also the section was filled with so many familiar faces - including some of my Carnival sisters, schoolmates from Ryerson and St. Basils, even clients!





Other Saldenah Sections To Note: 

I was so impressed to see how many male masqueraders there were in the band and looking quite handsome too! In Toronto, playing mas is much more popular among women as most men opt to spectate, "storm" or attend Cropover in Barbados.  The sections below were my favourite male designs and home to much of the carnival hotties! (Ha - yup I said it). 





Photo By: @j_david902

Saldenah Ladies










I love colors and feather in my road costume however at the Saldenah costume launch, the Like Ah Boss Section had neither. I was really hoping to wear a costume by the costume designer Project Runway winner Anya Ayoung Chee. To my surprise nonetheless, the section definitely stood out on the road. There were even a few ladies on the road that had a custom feathered collar piece that really vamped up the costume even more.  

Photo By: @anyaayoungchee


Up until my section arrived to the Lakeshore at around 3pm I was having an exceptional time. I am glad that I ate something substantial before leaving home as there were a lot less food vendors than past years and the food provided by my band was not the most accessible once we left the exhibition grounds. I am grateful for the amount of water being distributed though. I even seen a couple marshals hand out water to non-masqueraders – it was a kind gesture considering how hot the day was! Even with a different parade route this year, I was glad that I managed to see friends from other bands.

Congratulations to Carnival Nationz On Winning Band Of The Year with their presentation of "On Broadway"



The theme "On Broadway: was very innovative and many of the costume sections stood out on the road such as Madame Butterfly - My Favourite Section for the year. 





Photo By: Anthony Sladden
My crew and I arrived to the exhibition grounds at 11am. Although we were asked to be there at 9:30am THE LATEST, my band was still in the assembly area chilling out. Other bands had already gone down the road for a lap however Saldenah was the last band scheduled to go down the road so it made sense why they waited. Mind you, I also did not mind waiting because it gave me a chance to walk around and engage with other masqueraders - an opportunity I have missed the last two years. 

This year "due to the panam games" the festival management restructured the parade route. The first part of the route involved masqueraders parading throughout the exhibition (C.N.E) grounds. This part of the parade I LOVED and had so much fun.  The sun was shining, the music trucks, had my current favourite soca song "No Behaviour" on repeat, and all the masqueraders went down then road in their section - ''twas a beautiful scene. 

Note my section Big Phat Fish was placed in position number 2 out of Saldenah's 17 sections. Therefore sections 10 to 17 could have had a completely different experience than me. Plus I find it ironic that the main reason I played with Saldenah was to see Machel Montano perform on the road but I did not get to see him till 5 minutes before going home. WOMP. His section "Like Ah Boss" was all the way at the back (position 17).

In comparison to last year I did see a few of the improvements made by the festival management committee to increase safety on the road. However, there are still some areas that need work!


(1) The insufficient amount of bathroom facilities for masqueraders. In 2014 bathroom trucks were banned from the road for "safety reasons". 

The lakeshore had virtually no toilets along the route and one of my friends really had to go! We literally travelled to the ends of the earth to find a port-o-potty - only to see mile long line-ups! Ughhhhh!!!! So frustrating!

Suggestion: If the same route will be done again next year, A Masqueraders Village should be set up right by the Lakeshore that includes bathroom facilities and food stations for masqueraders only!

(2) The Toronto Carnival Stage – We Want MOR

My FAVOURITE part about playing Mas is crossing the stage with my section. It is the moment a true masquerader waits for each year yet sadly I DID NOT get this opportunity for 2015. My band crossed the "judging area" two times. The first time I recall seeing a little 8x10 sign indicating where I was (and I only saw it because I was looking for it!). We passed the judges instead of stopping and presenting each section one by one.

The second time we crossed was a disaster! The masquerader only parade route ended as soon as my section hit the lakeshore. Non - masqueraders who were "storming" - not the friendly, picture taking, whine to the side folks... THE STORMERS who climbed over or kicked down fences made their way into the parade route and took over! By the time we reached the judging station again the band was in disarray and there was only 15 minutes left to get the ENTIRE band across. I am sure you can guess how successful that was. Masqueraders were all over the place from our band and other bands, stormers posted up ON THE STAGE refusing to move, and sadly no marshals in sight. It was odd not seeing marshals around because for much of the day - they were quite helpful. I can see though how that job would be overwhelming once we hit the lakeshore. Despite the stage drama, Saldenah placed 3rd in the large band category. 

Suggestion: To help save the competition of Toronto Caribbean Carnival I highly recommend that organizers make an effort to create a real stage set up that includes a raised platform and lots of signage. The Scotiabank tent that is used annually to indicate a judging area is not cutting it.

(3) The Fences

I took the photo above of my girlfriend that spotted me on the road. I was determined to take a selfie with her despite how silly the photo may have looked. In looking at this picture it made me realize that this was the experience for many of the paying spectators. What is the point of paying money to see a parade when all your photos are behind a fence? This is such a conflicting situation. As a masquerader I feel safer with the fences - however I also feel bad for the spectators too.

Little Mama Here Had GREAT Dance Moves!

QUESTION FOR YOU THE READER: With the issue of stormers crashing the parade, what alternative would recommend since the iron fences do not seem to be working. Please Share In The Comment Section Below***

Final Thoughts

See you at Toronto Carnival 2016; yes I will continue to support the festival and hope that more positive changes are made. I urge folks to follow the Save Toronto Carnival campaign – the individuals behind it are working SO hard to help improve the parade we love so much and your support is needed! (Strength in numbers ya’ll).

Below is an interview I did with Save Toronto Carnival sharing my Carnival story:

If the video link is not visible, please click here:

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