By Michael Van Cooten
AJAX, Ontario — Tomorrow, the Durham Caribbean Festival will be staged at its attractive, new location at Ajax Downs, self-described as, “Ontario’s premiere entertainment centre”.
Located on one of the main, east-west thoroughfares in Ajax, Ontario — Kingston Road — Ajax Downs offers a trifecta of entertainment — slot machine casino, live quarter horse racing and a bustling restaurant — providing acres of rolling greenery and almost unlimited parking spaces, ideal for masquerading and jumping up.
In order to capitalise on the unique venue, the Festival is expanding to two days this year — Saturday, June 25 and Sunday, June 26.
Tomorrow, Ajax Downs’ beautifully landscaped property will be the backdrop to the culturally-infused Festival — Durham region’s most exciting, fun-filled extravaganza. Street performers/masqueraders, entertainers, singers, dancers, cultural and heritage groups will come together, in one place, to celebrate the diversity and flavours of the Caribbean.
And on Sunday, the Durham Caribbean Festival will take over Ajax Downs’ racetrack, presenting the very first “Caribbean Derby” to Canada, which will be broadcast live-to-air. The day (11am to 5pm) will offer an exclusive Caribbean brunch, live entertainment and the main attraction, the Caribbean Parade.
The Festival, a subsidiary of the Caribbean Event Organization of Ontario (CEOO), will showcase the unique foods, music, traditions, and beliefs and interests of Durham’s fastest growing community; in the city of Ajax alone, almost 40% of the population are from the Caribbean.
On April 18, the Durham Caribbean Festival was one of 200 festivals and events across Ontario that Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Michael Coteau, announced the province was investing $15.3 million in, that “will draw tourists, stimulate local economies and create jobs”.
“Ontario is home to many unique and diverse festivals and events that showcase our province and attract visitors from all over the world. I’m proud that through Celebrate Ontario, our government continues to support this vibrant sector. Our investment will help festivals and events offer new and expanded experiences that will support local economic growth, create jobs and draw tourists to communities across the province,” said Minister Coteau at the time of the announcement.
In response to the Minister’s funding announcement, Mary Galvan, the driving force behind the Festival and the CEOO Executive Director, told Pride News Magazine, in an exclusive interview, that she was thrilled.
“We were delighted to find out that we have received this funding. It will definitely help us expand our festival into a two day event,” she enthused.
The CEOO said it created the Durham Caribbean Festival “to raise awareness of cultural diversity and to help dispel negative stereotypes”, noting that it “believes that the diversity in our community is a fundamental strength of our region”.
“Our mission is to bring awareness to the benefits of cultural differences, the issues behind racial profiling and misconceptions affiliated with diversity on all levels. Throughout our work, we will support diversity in all of its forms, encompassing but not limited to age, disability, economic circumstance, ethnicity, gender, race, religion or sexual orientation,” it added.
In a media release about the Festival, the organisation suggested, “For some participants, the Durham Caribbean Festival will awaken sweet and fond memories of their native lands; while for others, it will be about getting to know more about their neighbors, friends and co-workers; and for all, it will be about sharing in the Caribbean vibe.”
Admission to the Festival is $10.00 for adults and $2.00 for children under 12-years-old, and the venue, Ajax Downs, is located at 50 Alexander’s Crossing (at Kingston Road) in Ajax.
For more information either visit the Festival’s website at www.durhamcaribbeanfestival.com or call (416) 876-4679.