Do you think of yourself as a Midwesterner? A Northerner? If you live in Chicago, author Ted McClelland would call you a Great Laker. McClelland spent last summer driving around the Great Lakes — a 9,600-mile trip that took him as far west as Duluth, Minnesota, and as far east as Kingston, Ontario — to research his upcoming book, The Third Coast, which looks at the Lakes as a distinct region of North America, with its own culture and common interests. Gapers Block is pleased to present a series of excerpts from the book over the next several months.
"When I came to Toronto," says Lennox Farrell, "their idea of a parade was a few people and a drum."
That was in 1969, when Toronto was a puritanical city run by Ulster Scots. Their biggest celebration was the Orange Order Parade, modeled on the Protestant marches in Northern Ireland.
Now, Farrell's people throw the biggest party in Toronto. Farrell, who emigrated from Trinidad, is a leading organizer of Caribana, which draws a million people to watch revelers march along Lake Shore Boulevard in spangled bikinis and wild headdresses. Ludacris came one year, then name-checked the parade in his song "Pimpin' All Over the World":
I used to think that it was way too cold
'til I went to Canada and saw some beautiful hoes.
Now I hit the Caribana every year in Toronto.
Billy Dee Williams, another fan, says the Caribana dancers are "some of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in my life." This year, basketball player Jamaal Migloire, a Toronto native, sponsored a band.
Caribana represents the city's transformation from "Toronto the Good" to one of the world's great multicultural metropolises.
"The greatest impact is not even entertainment, it's social," Farrell said. "Caribana is the face of the new Canada."
And there's something about wearing a bikini in front of a million strangers that makes even Canadians lose their inhibitions. Enjoy these pictures from this year's Caribana.
1. Sheboygan & Manitowoc County, Wisconsin
2. Marquette, Michigan
3. Mackinac Island, Michigan
4. Grand Marais, Minnesota
5. Pays Plat First Nations Reserve, Ontario, Canada
6. Isle Royale, Michigan
7. Rogers City, Michigan
8. Toronto, Canada
9. Hamilton, Ontario
10. Hamburg, New York
Buy the book.