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The Globe and Mail

Revelers at Toronto's Caribbean festival pounded by sweltering heat

Walter Elliott is pictured holding a head dress at his workshop in Toronto's east end on Wednesday August 1, 2012. Elliot is a masqaurader, makes his own costumes for the parade.

Chris Young/chris young The Globe and Mail

She flew to Toronto from the Bahamas with a bejeweled headpiece in her suitcase, ready to shimmy with thousands of strangers at the Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival grand parade.

But as Janelle Thomas reached the end of the 3.5-kilometre trek along Lake Shore Boulevard West, she had just one thing in mind: water.

"It was beyond hot and all I could think about. But I just danced and danced," said the 22-year-old, who walked in the parade with her cousins in matching bejeweled orange outfits.

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The massive procession, the centrepiece of the 45th annual carnival, reached its end just before 5:30 p.m. at Jameson Avenue and Lake Shore Boulevard West and tapered off as hundreds of people flooded the area for food, drinks and music.

The parade was a particularly sizzling one. Temperatures climbed to 33C Saturday afternoon as Toronto baked under a heat and smog alert. With the humidex, it felt closer to 40C.

The day's festivities kicked off just before 10 a.m. at Exhibition Place. Parade goers lining the route along Lake Shore Boulevard West cheered as a barrage of masquerade bands, floats and colourfully costumed bodies slowly grooved down the street to soca, calypso and reggae music.

The carnival, formerly known as Caribana, draws crowds of up to one million people each year. The three-week celebration of Caribbean culture is the largest festival of its kind in North America.

Among the revellers was Trinity-Spadina MP Olivia Chow, who posted a photo on Twitter of herself decked out in a hot pink and yellow ensemble with wings and a white feather halo.

"My band's theme this year is Hope For Tomorrow," she tweeted.

The blazing sun didn't bother Brazilian tourist Lena Verra, a Caribbean Carnival first-timer.

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"It's not as hot as where I'm from," she said as she stopped to take a picture with glitter-rubbed male paraders. "We like the costumes, the music, the street atmosphere."

Extra police were also among the crowds of festival goers. Following a spate of fatal shootings in Toronto last month, Chief Bill Blair announced that 350 extra officers would be deployed to the parade, on top of 600 private security staff hired by Caribbean Carnival organizers.

Police spokesman Constable Tony Vella said there were no serious incidents at the parade.

"There were a couple of small issues, but nothing major," he said.

The festival also announced that, for the first time, they would search the bags of people sitting in the parade's paid bleacher seats.

Dean Wade, who comes from Jamaica every year to visit family in Toronto  during the carnival, said the heightened police presence didn't phase him.

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"It's the opposite - I feel very safe with all these guys around," he said. "I haven't seen any trouble all day."

The carnival continues on Sunday with a food festival and concert at Polson Pier and will wrap up with a church service at St. James Cathedral on Aug. 12.

Lake Shore Boulevard West between Strachan Avenue and Colborne Lodge Drive will reopen on Sunday at 6 a.m.

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