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Food, fetes and festivals: 11 things to do on Caribana weekend in Toronto

Toronto Caribbean Carnival weekend, formerly known as Caribana, is bouncing back from lockdown with fetes and boat cruises
July 29, 2021

Latiesha Williams wears a mas costume at Real Jerk Restaurant. She's hosting one of the things to do this Caribana weekend
Nick Lachance

Face of 2021 Carnival Lateisha Williams busts a wine at The Real Jerk (842 Gerrard E) wearing Caribella Mas' "I Have A Dream" costume.

The Caribana spirit is mingling with reopening vibes, and opportunity knocks for revellers to find things to do and places to go to bust a bubble wine. This year’s Toronto Caribbean Carnival weekend is offering a mix of virtual celebrations, food fests, patio socials, outdoor fetes and boat cruises. Get your jab jab and enjoy.

Toronto Carnival’s Patio Lime
All month, the Patio Lime series has been hosting events with mas bands at restaurants across the Greater Toronto Area. Venom Carnival led the celebrations at Twilight restaurant; Fantazia at Tropical Nights; SugaCayne Mas at Nicey’s Eatery; and so on. This weekend the Patio Lime heads to Brampton’s Platinum Tap and Grill, where Costume Creations Cultural Arts will be holding fort with masqueraders, steel pan, pepper pigtail and jerk chicken poutine.

July 29. Platinum Tap and Grill (158 Kennedy South, Unit 14, Brampton). 7 pm. Free.

Carnival Flavours
Remember when we told you that Scarborough parking lots are where the culture comes alive? Toronto Carnival’s month-long series highlighting Caribbean restaurants across the city ends at the Street Eats food truck festival parked at the Scarborough Town Centre. Grab some boil from MOB Seafood & Tings and get a little sauced in the Carib beer garden while the pan and revellers do their thing.

July 30-August 1. Scarborough Town Centre (520 Progress). 2-10 pm. Free (with tickets).

Big People Fete
The pandemic ain’t holding down Dr. Jay, the long-standing pillar of soca culture in Toronto. The deejay’s annual outdoor fete Soca Or Die at Markham Fairgrounds is already sold out. But tickets are still available for his annual Big People Fete, which is catering to the seasoned revellers among us with a family-friendly drive-thru edition hosting calypso legend David Rudder. The Trini 2 De Bone singer will be on stage with a full band at City View Drive-In.

July 30. CityView Drive-In (11 Polson). 8 pm. $110-$180 per vehicle (up to six people).

What’s a Carnival weekend without a little water? Lake Ontario will be filled with boat cruises hosting mini-socially-distanced fetes all weekend. Another local soca ambassador, DJ Jester, will kick things off at Pure, the Friday fete aboard the River Gambler.

July 30. 222 Cherry. 1 pm. $60.

Carnival Flavour at Twilight
Keep it real, Scarborough, at Twilight restaurant. The local staple usually serving Asian-Caribbean cuisine like pepper shrimp and stir-fry duck will be hosting an indoor and patio event with DJs Buzz B, Reckless Ros and more. Might as well try some doubles from Mona’s down the road on your way over.

July 30. Twilight Restaurant (55 Nugget). 9 pm. $25-$30.

SOS Fest: Carnival Kingdom 2021
The past few years have been on-again and off-again for Toronto’s major outdoor fete. Remember how the city of Vaughan shut down Carnival Kingdom in 2018? Remember how they bounced back in 2019? And then the pandemic put the event on ice in 2020 – only for them to return as a daytime fete in 2021. The pandemic is obviously keeping regular artists like Machel Montano and Bunji Garlin off the Carnival Kingdom stage this year, but the organizers at SOS fest are pivoting towards a DJ-focused lineup on a 360-degree outdoor stage setup and a production they promise will be big on spectacle.

July 31. Markham Fairgrounds (10801 McCowan). 3-11 pm. $50-$450.

Toronto 6ix Islands Food Inclusive Fete
The Face of the 2021 Carnival Lateisha Williams (aka Carnival Bae) is hosting an indoor, socially distanced, mask-on jam at the Phoenix alongside CHUM’s Azalea Hart and Jamar. Tickets are purchased by booths for groups of four or six so everyone can plan to lounge or bubble in their bubbles to soca music while chowing down on corn soup, doubles and chow mein with fried chicken and rice.

July 31. Phoenix Concert Theatre (410 Sherbourne). 9 pm. $240-$480.

Blockobana: Black Pride Weekend
The organizers of Pride party Blockrama’s annual celebration of both Caribana and Emancipation Day goes virtual this year with more than three hours of livestreamed music and performances. The lineup includes DJ Carma, DJ Blackcat, Nik Red, Sandy Duperval, R. Flex, drag performer Devine Darlin and more.

August 1. 6 pm. Free.

Emancipation Day Celebration
Canada is recognizing August 1 as Emancipation Day nationwide for the first time this year, which hopefully gives this virtual celebration of the Slavery Abolition Act hosted by the Ontario Black History Society more reach. Expect speakers, performers, a look back at the history of Toronto’s Carnival and the CN Tower lit red, green and yellow to celebrate freedom and diversity.

August 1. 6-7:30 pm. Free.

‘Da Kink In My Hair actor Ngozi Paul created and hosts this one-hour variety special with spoken word, music and dance commemorating Emancipation Day in Canada. Rappers Kardinal Offishall, Michie Mee and Polaris and Prism Prize winner Haviah Mighty, poets d’bi.young anitafrika, Randell Adjei and Peace Akintade, and Indigenous group Silla + Rise are among the artists sharing how they express freedom through work.

Streaming on CBC Gem from August 1.

Carnival Rehab
DJ royalty D’Bandit and Jester are moving their annual last leg Carnival Monday event from Cabana Pool Bar to Markham Fairgrounds. The outdoor fete has a new look. But its name, Carnival Rehab, feels so much more on point this year.

August 2. Markham Fairgrounds (10801 McCowan). 2-8 pm. $60.