Carifest assaults your senses.
Calypso beats capture your ears and invigorate the body and soul. A rainbow
of colours invades your vision until all else fades away but the swishing
feathers and piercing whistles. This is Carifest.
This Saturday’s highly
anticipated Sunshine Festival at Prince’s Island Park brings the
18th Annual Caribbean Cultural Festival Week to an end.
Carifest was created in 1991 due to the growth of the Caribbean Community
in Calgary. Various island communities united to create a one day festival
to promote Caribbean culture. Since then, the festival has grown with
each subsequent year.
"Carifest is the largest ethnic festival in Alberta," said Leo
Cripps, Media Coordinator for Carifest ’99. "At any given year
you can expect to see from 15–30,000 people taking in the festival."
Carifest draws people from Calgary and all over Canada.
Among its main objectives, Carifest tries to simulate the food, music
and celebration one would experience on a typical Caribbean island. As
a result this attracts both Caribbeans and non-Caribbeans alike.
"Normally we have participants and performers from both Winnipeg
and Edmonton, and sometimes Vancouver," said Cripps. "It’s
kind of a meeting place for anybody who is into that Caribbean festival
The big island festival is usually the third Saturday in June. The preceding
week includes a fanfare of Caribbean celebration located in and around
Carifest appeals to various cultures, races and sexes. It has no boundaries
in its universality. However, last year’s Carifest was not as successful
as past years.
"Last year’s Carifest was a letdown. This year we started off
with new ideas, new board members and new people on the committees, this
years Carifest team is practically all new people," said Cripps.
Cripps hopes that with different perspectives thrown in the mix Carifest
will improve in quality.
"The festival is a part of the Calgary community," he said.
"Its not so much a Caribbean festival as it is a Calgary festival
with a Caribbean theme to it."
Organizing Carifest brings the responsibility of displaying Caribbean
culture in a positive way. For those who know little about the Caribbean,
this will be the foundation from which they form an opinion.
This year’s primary goal was to showcase local talent.
"Because the festival is such a strong part of the Calgary community
we wanted to it bring back home. We’ve brought in bands every year
from different places, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad, it’s cost us
a lot of money to bring these bands in," said Cripps. "This
year, one of the things we looked at was why we were spending $20,000
to bring in a 13 piece band from Barbados or Trinidad, when we have local
talent in Calgary that can match any of the people we can bring in."
Local acts include Strugglah, Caribe Singers and Dancers, Double U.I,
Kentone D.J., and Gavin Hope.
Though Carifest does not have the recognition or the same appeal associated
with Caribana, Toronto’s Caribbean festival, the maintained control
over the festival as a whole.
Carifest’s volunteers coordinate and oversee all aspects of its organization.
Caribana, on the other hand, is now run by the city of Toronto, due to
the large number of people and money it typically draws.
Carifest receives its funding from various corporate sponsors and private
donations, but for the most part Carifest relies on ticket sales for financial
Those new to the Carifest experience can expect to see an abundance of
food, laughter and music this Saturday. If you would like to get a head
start, Strugglah will be performing Thurs., June 17 at noon on Stephen
Avenue Walk. The Olympic Plaza will also be hosting open-air entertainment
Friday from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.