One of the main events for Ottawa’s Caribbean Festival has been cancelled this year, but organizers are confident visitors will still come out to enjoy the food, music and other performances.

“The parade was the biggest part of the event,” said Caribe-Expo executive director Cheryl Antoine.

“But it was also the most expensive part, and it was non-revenue. We had to close the streets and pay for police. But we hope the festival will be good.”


In its 16th year, Caribe-Expo is expected to draw thousands of people to Festival Plaza at city hall Saturday and Sunday, Antoine said.

The festival, which kicks off Friday night with a midnight boat cruise, is in full swing by 11 a.m. Saturday, when people can enjoy Caribbean food and artists from Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto performing reggae and East Indian music, said Antoine. Headliners include Raf Lee, an Ottawa reggae artist, and a youth calypso group from Montreal.

“The festival is also kid-friendly,” Antoine said. While kids up to age 12 get in free, events like mask making are geared to children, she said.

Antoine estimates Ottawa’s Caribbean population to be around 30,000, but says each island has its own distinct culture.

The festival is an opportunity for them to share what’s unique about their islands, she said.

“We look forward to sharing those differences,” she said. “We’re small, but we’re rich in culture, and we want to share it with the community. You can visit the Caribbean, and you won’t need a passport.”

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