May 26-28 marked yet another successful year for Carassauga Festival of Cultures. Visitors had the opportunity to experience a world of music, dance, artistry and cuisine, all without leaving Mississauga.
Carassauga began in 1985 when Mayor Hazel McCallion posed a challenge to all ethnocultural groups to promote public awareness of the city’s rich mix of cultures, as well as encourage understanding, respect, and cooperation among Canadians of different heritage. In its first year, Carassauga had 10 cultural pavilions. That number has seen a substantial increase to 31 pavilions representing over 70 countries in 2017.
“We take pride in celebrating diversity like no one else can,” said Linda Siutra, executive director, Carassauga. Siutra also added that she and other organizers are also proud to report their continued success in running a safe event once again this year, without incident.
Now in its 32nd year, Carassauga has grown to become the largest multicultural festival in Ontario and the second largest multicultural festival in Canada. Attendance at Carassauga 2016 was almost 364,000 visitors, and although not yet confirmed, organizers anticipate that numbers for this year will be even higher.
Canada’s upcoming 150th birthday was a special highlight of this year’s festival. The opening night ceremony featured the vibrant and colourful “Parade of Nations” as well as a new and specially choreographed flag dance. Tribute acts for Canadian musical greats Bryan Adams, Shania Twain and the Guess Who also performed on Saturday evening.
The Canadian Pavilion was sponsored and hosted for the first time by the Streetsville Legion who “took great pride in doing it right for Canada 150,” cites Siutra. In celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday from coast to coast, the pavilion’s activities included live music, historical re-enactments, storytelling, costume displays, heritage exhibits and even a duct tape sculpture contest.
The “Carassauga Discovers New Talent” singing contest was a first for this year’s festival. Open to applicants between the ages of 18 to 27 wishing to further their music career with an opportunity to win a recording demo, five finalists performed at the festival with judging by a panel of local music industry professionals. This year’s winner was James Deacon of London whom Siutra described as having the “voice of an angel.”
With a goal to provide something for everyone, the Kids Zone offered a kid-friendly activity area with stimulating educational and sports activities for kids of all ages, plus musical entertainment by young performers. As well, the Toonie Taste was offered again this year and allowed visitors wishing to sample a wide selection of diverse ethnic cuisine to purchase taster plates from the various pavilions for only two dollars each.
Carassauga took place at the Hershey Centre, 5500 Rose Cherry Pl., with satellite pavilions accessible by free shuttles and no-charge MiWay rides throughout the city. For information: www.carassauga.com.
Photo: opening ceremony, Carassauga 2017