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Carimas festival in Montreal replacing Carifiesta with month-long celebration

For some people attending a press conference at the Jamaica Association of Montreal Friday, this summer’s Caribbean carnival, now known as Carimas, can’t come soon enough.

“For the past nine months we’ve been working hard to put on a good parade for the city,” says Carimas Festival spokesperson, Kris Bennett.

Organizers of this year’s carnival announced more details after revealing a week ago that the city gave them a permit.

That team is the Caribbean Coalition Network of Montreal (CCNM), a new group that won the city’s approval from among several proposals.

The Coalition, a local group made up of seven Caribbean island associations, was formed a few years ago to promote Caribbean cultures and interests in the province. Putting on the carnival is a new mandate.

“Montreal had the biggest carnival in North America at one point, and in time we’re looking and intending to bring it back to that,” explained Jason Forbes, president of YUL Cultural Association. His group was brought in to coordinate the parade.

The carnival, known for years as Carifiesta, was cancelled last year after the city turned down long-time organizers, citing governance concerns with the group. The CCNM has rebranded the event this year as the Carimas Festival and will comprise four events over a month.

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Things get started with two pageants, one June 9th for girls, the other on June 22nd for young women.

Dawn McNichols, in charge of the committee putting those together, says rehearsals have already begun.

“(For the younger participants) we have 16 but our maximum is 20, so we still have room if anybody wants to come and participate,” she laughs. “For the 18 and over we have 8. Maximum is 10.”

There’s also a junior carnival for kids, called Petit Carimas, on the schedule, but that date hasn’t been set yet. For the main event, the Carimas parade July 6th, Forbes says ten costumed bands have already committed.

“Some of them are associated with Trinidad. We have three Haitian bands. I can tell you that much,” he tells Global News. “We have also two bands coming from Africa, coming from Zimbabwe and Ghana.”

He says that’s in addition to seven non-costumed groups making 17 committed groups in all so far. One dragon dance group from the Chinese community confirmed with Global News they too are interested in taking part.

After the parade there’ll be cultural activities, concerts and culinary events. The location for that and the parade routes have not been confirmed yet. CCNM officials say they wanted to do even more, but time was short.

“We wanted to include things like a big calypso show, which is (traditionally) part of Carnival, and would portray our culture and our art,” explains Ketlyn Maitland-Blades, CCM member and president of the Dominica Island Cultural Association of Montreal.

She adds that they also wanted to do a “J’ouvert,” another parade to open the festival, plus a carnival king and queen contest. According to her, plans are underway to have those added to next year’s festivities, provided they get the renewal on the city’s permit.

The CCNM says they are waiting to see if the city will grant them a five-year mandate to host the festival.

The coalition wants to raise another $75,000 in addition to the $30,000 from the City of Montreal and started fundraising a week ago.

“Yes, there’ve been some organizations that reached out to us to ask what they can do to help us,” Cynthia Waithe, CCM member and Barbados House Montreal president points out.

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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