'Everyone's out there just having fun and letting the music just flow'
Commonly called Caribana, the event is in its 47th year, billing itself an "explosion of Caribbean cuisine, music, revelry as well as visual and performing arts."
The parade is the marquee event of the three-week festival and winds along a 3 1/2-kilometre stretch of Toronto's Lakeshore Boulevard.
A spokesman says the festival has improved safety after the death of a Mississauga, Ont., teenager who was run over by a float at last year's parade.
Stephen Weir says the trucks are now equipped with protective skirts.
He says the parade celebrates the end of slavery in the Caribbean, and the simple joy of freely walking down the street.
"It's six to eight hours of people jumping up and waving flags and listening to soca music and steel bands," he said. "It's one of those things you can see it as a thing about emancipation or it can be a thing about just having a good time in the summer in Toronto. Both are equally right."
Parade participants picked up their intricate outfits earlier this week, applying finishing touches and getting in the festival spirit. Nevrene Lindo said he was preparing by dancing in her room to infectious soca beats. Lindo, whose background is Jamaican, said first-time parade attendees should drink lots of water and rest up ahead of time.
"Everyone's out there just having fun and letting the music just flow through their veins," she said. "It may seem overwhelming, but I would say they would enjoy it and they would probably want to come back. It's a lot of fun. Everyone is so nice. There's different cultures that will come out and...when you're going for the first time you'll learn new dances."
Jane Soosaipillai has never participated in the parade before, nor is her heritage Caribbean, but she said she couldn't pass up the opportunity when a friend asked if she wanted to join.
"I figure if you're living in a city like Toronto where it's multicultural you should get in on everything that you can," she said. "I feel a little out of my territory, but I like that feeling. I feel like because I'm doing it I'm going to learn a lot more than people just looking in."
This year will be Lateisha Williams's seventh participating in the parade. Williams, who is part Bajan and part Jamaican, said even though the weather forecast is calling for a chance of thunderstorms, rain or shine the parade is fun — especially the music.
"When you see like 20,000 masqueraders on the road it's incredible," she said. "I love soca music...It's just something that makes you happy. When you hear soca it's just, you want to jump. You want to jump up and down. You want to smile."