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After three months of preparation, sometimes working until 2 a.m., Destynee Charles danced and twirled her way onto the stage at the 52nd annual Toronto Caribbean Carnival Saturday, her twinkling, black and silver “mas on the move” costume reaching more than 4 metres into the air.
The performance looked effortless: Charles twirled across the stage before the judges, maneuvering a towering, bedazzled frame built with aluminium rods, fibreglass, and a helluva lot of reflective material.
In reality, it was like leg day at the gym.
“I am tired right now,” said a still-grinning Charles, 20, who has been a festival participant since she could walk. “It takes a lot of thighs, arms — it’s mostly thighs, though, glutes, quads.”
After a month filled with events celebrating Caribbean culture in Toronto, the Caribbean Carnival ended Saturday with the popular Grande Parade. Hundreds of masqueraders donned elaborate and colourful costumes to dance, clap and shimmy their way past the judges near Exhibition Place before snaking through downtown Toronto.
Lining the streets along Lakeshore Blvd., as the parade made its way near High Park, were thousands of excited spectators, keen to watch floats and masqueraders dance by, their sparkles, jewels and feathers brilliant in Saturday’s sun.
“This is a once in a lifetime experience,” said Nkeiru Ezi, who travelled from Washington, D.C. to participate in her first Caribbean Carnival in Toronto.
“I feel great — the vibe is amazing,” said Nikki Darville, who spent two hours getting ready before competing in front of the judges Saturday.
Considered a favourite event of the Carnival, Saturday’s day-long Grand Parade always draws thousands of spectators from across the city, Canada and beyond.
“I wanted to do something I’ve never done before,” said Sam Becotte, who travelled from Syracuse, N.Y. with friend Paige Holt to attend the parade for the first time. Both donned their own, handmade bejeweled costumes to come and watch in style.
The parade weekend has drawn some famous visitors to Toronto, including basketball star LeBron James — alongside speculation that former Toronto Raptor Kawhi Leonard, who now plays for the Los Angeles Clippers, may be back in town.
“If you see Kawhi around Toronto for Caribana, just thank him,” one fan tweeted Saturday.