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Participants dance to music prior to the start of the Caribbean Carnival’s grand parade in Toronto, on July 30, 2022.Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press

Colourful, feathered costumes and booming Soca music filled Toronto’s Exhibition Place and Lake Shore Boulevard Saturday as festivalgoers celebrated the return of the Caribbean Carnival’s grand parade.

The Caribbean parade, meant to celebrate freedom and emancipation from slavery, is back for its 55th anniversary after the COVID-19 pandemic forced cancellations in 2020 and 2021.

The festival is also a large tourist attraction for Toronto, with many attendees travelling to the city from across North America to celebrate the festival’s return.

Felicia Williams, who travelled to Toronto from Alabama to attend her first Carnival said “it means the world” to be able to celebrate different cultures and races at the festival after the hiatus.

“I am looking forward to all the beautiful people, all the beautiful costumes, just getting together, having a great, fun time,” Williams said.

Sporting a bedazzled crown and bikini with large feathers of orange, green, blue and pink on her back, Williams said she glued on each individual diamond and feather in a “tedious but very fun” process.

Alexander Harold, who is Nigerian, said he travelled to the city from Buffalo, N.Y. because he grew up hearing about the strong Caribbean culture in Toronto.

“I wanted to get over here and experience the festival,” said the 28-year-old. “It’s so dope to see so many different cultures and everybody be so happy and expressive.”

Crowds stretched for kilometres along the parade route, with celebrants setting up lawn chairs and enjoying food from vendors, waiting to catch a glimpse of the glittering costumes and parade floats.

Toronto Mayor John Tory and federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh were among those who marched in this year’s parade.