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The History of Caribana & the Grand Parade

Caribana and its main event, the Grand Parade, has grown so much since its humble beginnings.
Image: James Lewcun, 1976: The Globe and Mail.

The first Grand Parade took place in 1967 and was attended by a crowd of about 50,000 people, while today, an estimated 1.3 million take in the parade. The Caribana festival draws in an approximate 2 million people total during its three-week span in Toronto. This is a history of Caribana in Toronto.

With roots dating back to 1967 and inspired by Trinidad’s pre-lenten Carnival, the first ‘Caribana’ was organized as part of Canada’s Expo 67 Centennial celebrations by the Caribbean Cultural Committee.

The first Grand Parade route looked much different than what it is now, with the parade starting at Varsity Stadium, going down Bloor Street, down Yonge Street and over to Queen Street where it ended at City Hall.

The next incarnation of the parade happened in 1971, when the revelers relocated to a new route that went down University Avenue.

In 1991 the Grand Parade worked, rather, “wine”’d its way over to the CNE in 1991, where it’s been held ever since, where the parade stretches across 3.5 km of Lakeshore Boulevard.

Learn more about the history of Caribana in our 60-second explainer video on TikTok.

Caribana Festivities on Yonge Street. Image: John Wood, 1971: The Globe and Mail.

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