Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music
Decades after it was first established, Annamarie Edwards knew Edmonton’s Caribbean arts festival would to grow into the major event that it is today.
The 35th annual Cariwest Festival gets underway Friday starting at 7 p.m. at the Federal Plaza Building grounds in downtown Edmonton. The three-day festival, which wraps on Sunday, features a variety of sights and sounds from the Caribbean with one of the highlights being the Saturday parade, which runs from noon to 2 p.m. The route starts along 107 Street, goes up and down Jasper Avenue to 97 Street. There’s also the Caribbean village located near the Alberta legislature grounds where visitors will be able to see various arts and crafts.
Edwards, the president of Western Carnival Development Association Board of Directors, remembers the first few years where there were no parades or large events.
“Back then, it really started like a very grassroots community thing where people came and picnicked,” she said on Thursday. “We didn’t have food trucks and all of that. It grew to what it is today. It means a lot to me. It’s a way of keeping our culture going.”
Edwards’ parents arrived in Edmonton in the 1960s. At that time, she said the Caribbean community wasn’t very large and everyone mostly knew each other. The desire to create a festival started from the community wanting to keep a piece of the Caribbean alive.
“It started off with putting together music bands and steel bands and then we started taking part in the Klondike parade in our carnival costumes,” she said. “It just kind of kept growing until we were ready to celebrate our culture here in Edmonton.”
This is the second year the festival has been located at the Federal Plaza grounds but Edwards said Cariwest has moved many times over the years. The festival was once located downtown, at Churchill Square and even in Mill Woods.
“There is a constant change to (the festival),” she said. “What makes us different from other festivals is we are 100 per cent volunteer-driven. Our board is totally volunteers.”
The festival runs Friday 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.