It’s taken more than a year of planning, but the inaugural Caribanna North is coming to Collingwood next weekend.
The family-friendly festival will be taking place at Collingwood Brewery and seeks to be a celebration of Caribbean culture. The event is the brainchild of Collingwood resident Kicha Holden and Hillary Burke.
“I love doing community service. I’ve always wanted to bring a little bit of my flair to Collingwood, because I’m originally from Jamaica,” Holden said.
When Holden originally met Burke a few years ago through a friend, the two bonded over their island roots as Burke is half-Trinidadian.
“We got to talking... and I said we should bring Caribana to Collingwood,” Holden said.
This year’s entertainment will include island music, dancers in full costume from Caribana 2022, and will feature the Toronto Revellers, a costumed group led by former Toronto Raptors forward Jamaal Magloire. Face-painting, dance and drum lessons and a DJ will also be part of the day.
The Collingwood Brewery will be serving a special Caribanna Lager, an approachable beer with a hint of citrus hops, brewed specifically for the event.
Angie's Place Caribbean Eatery and Tracy’s Roti and Caribbean Hot Table will serve up dishes such as jerk and curry chicken, roti and doubles.
Holden says the duo felt the inspiration to push their idea into a reality after she attended Collingwood Pride in 2021.
“I sat down at Low Down (Restaurant) and I was looking around and saw what they were doing and I thought, ‘I can do this,’” she said.
A soft launch and fundraiser in May at 1858 Caesar Bar proved successful, with the funds raised split between festival costs and a donation to My Friend’s House.
Holden and Burke connected with John Gabriele of Gabriele Photography, who had previously worked with the Collingwood Elvis Festival, to help get their event off the ground.
“He has a lot of great knowledge about that environment. We teamed up to bring this here.”
The roots of Caribana events, which also include other events such as J’ouvert, Carnivale and Mardi Gras, date back hundreds of years.
“My ancestors – slaves and freed slaves – they worked the land for harvest,” said Holden. “Once the harvest was complete, the slave owners would celebrate if it had been a great year or crop. My ancestors asked to be part of the celebrations since they were the ones who worked the land. They were shunned.”
“We don’t get mad about it. We celebrated the harvest in our own way, as an amazing party while remembering where it came from. That’s how it started,” she said.
Holden said she had heard over the years many locals say they’d love to attend a Caribana event in a bigger city centre such as Toronto, however were deterred by the size and scope of those events.
“I wanted the Georgian Bay area to experience a piece of the culture,” said Holden. “It’s paying homage to our ancestors who worked the land and wanted some type of recognition. It’s bringing that flair of calypso and happiness.”
After a year of planning, Holden says she’s looking forward to more than a year of work finally coming to fruition. She also says the group has a 10-year plan to expand the event year over year.
“I’ve been having sleepless nights,” she said, with a laugh. “I want to make sure everyone enjoys it and has a good time. I want everybody to leave with a smile.”
Caribanna North will run from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Aug. 13 at The Collingwood Brewery. Tickets are $45 per adult, $20 per child and children under three years old are free.
For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.