Dance in the rain with over 10,000 people. It's good for your soul
For the last two years, I have been unable to attend Caribana. Between work or personal obligations, it wasn't able to happen, but this year my determination was unmatched for making it to the 6ix. No one or nothing was holding me back from my dreams of dancing in the streets in a scantily clad costume and bedazzled tights.
As I sat in Chicago O'Hare airport with two of my friends, I saw the possibility of me going slip away as flight after flight to Toronto was canceled. American Airlines was unsure if they could get us on a flight tomorrow or even Saturday. The pit that was in the bottom of my stomach was unfathomable until it was decided that we weren't letting our circumstances get the best of us or our time. We were driving to Toronto. To this day, I am not sure if it was the rounds of rum punch that we had had earlier in the day or if we thought it was a genuinely good idea to rent a car at 9:00 pm and make the trip. Either way, we were getting it done.
Eight hours and two stops later, we finally arrived in Toronto. The Sheraton Hotel was crawling with groups of people with the common goal of losing their minds for a few days. We thought that all of our worries were over since the hardest hurdle had been passed, but unfortunately not since American failed to put my friend BA's luggage on any of the flights that morning or that afternoon. A lengthy email and a few calls later one of our friends luckily was going to bring it the next morning.
We managed to make it to Cabana Pool Party which LeBron hosts yearly. We ventured out just as a tsunami hit that left us soaked from head to toe. Although everyone was pouring water out of shoes and ringing their hair, the party went on based on the fact that we all had no other choice but to turn up and dance to Soca music to ease the pain and try to dry off in the midst of a storm.
The day of the parade we arrived at the campsite early in order for me to get some pre-parade shots in. I was offered the opportunity to take over Noirbnb's Instagram for the weekend and document my time at Caribana. It was a great experience getting to talk to people that had come from as far as Jamaica to celebrate the 50th year of Caribana in Toronto. After several hours, a lot of drinks and a few rain showers later, we finally crossed the performance stage for less than two minutes of glory. The different bands compete for the band of the year and you cross a "stage" or area where the band is judged by the costumes, themes, and other factors. Our band Carnival Nationz was defending their current reign as the band of the year. Although our feet were weary and we were physically drained, we took one more walk around the park with the parade to mingle with the thousands of people who came out to enjoy the parade.
As if I thought Saturday wasn't enough for my crew, the next day we found ourselves in a warehouse with over 4000 people Swag Surfing and Milly Rockin'. DJ Self from Love and Hip Hop New York and Power 105.1 spun mixes of Soca, Hip Hop and R&B that resulted in us having the time of our lives. If you have ever been to the Southern themed traveling party Grits and Biscuits, think that but better. We found the energy to have 5 hours of consecutive fun dancing and joking the entire time. It is a Caribana must for this party.
I most certainly plan to go back next year before I head to Barbados in 2019 for Crop over. If you are interested in going to Caribana, I highly suggest that you go. It is a great time unwind. Every trip is what you make it of course, but I can say there is no reason that you go and not enjoy yourself. Here are my top tips for navigating your trip to the 6ix:
1. PLAN AND BUDGET EARLY: The rooms start out at 300 pp depending on how many days you go, what hotel, and the number of people in your room. The room also includes several party tickets so it does make it easier when planning. There are also plenty of Airbnbs and rental homes downtown in that area to stay.
Costumes start at 250 for females. You have the option to upgrade to different bras, bottoms and feather pieces for an additional cost. I also wore tights under my costume. I purchased mine from Carnivalista. Their quality is amazing and I can wear again. They were better than the options I saw at the band camp for purchase. Visit their website here
2. RESEARCH: Decide what band and then what section you want to play in. There is an overall theme to Caribana and each band has different costumes within their sections. This year's theme was Oh Canada, a celebration of the country of Canada. For instance, we played with Carnival Nationz (the band) and in band section More L!fe hosted by Hause League. Sanjay and the team did a great job of organizing and getting us in and out with our costumes.
3. STAY HYDRATED. This is a really simple thing. Not much to talk about
4. COMFORT: Dress for comfort all weekend. Also be aware of the weather at all times. It was cold and rainy some day then warm and nice others. Wear sneakers at the parade. Don't be that person who can't walk in your heels for miles. In addition, secure your wig. We saw a few fly off on the ground.
5. HAVE FUN: Leave all your worries at home. No one is judging you for being in the street half-naked because guess what...they are too! Caribana is going to get whatever body you give it.
-As always, pack light and travel heavy-