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Steelpans, Red Stripe and parades at Caribbean carnival in Coquitlam

On July 23 and 24, Coquitlam's Town Centre Park will be filled with the sounds and sights of the tropics for the Trinidad and Tobago Cultural Society of B.C.'s 33rd annual Caribbean Days Festival.
[From left to right] The Trinidad and Tobago Cultural Society of B.C.'s Shannon Alves (secretary), Marilyn Perrin (president), Finderson Alves (festival chairman) and Maureen Simon (sponsorship) are pictured at Town Centre Park in Coquitlam, where they will host the 33rd annual Caribbean Days Festival.

The Caribbean population in the Tri-Cities may be small, but it has prominent leaders who have shaped the community over the years.

Len Traboulay, a former Port Coquitlam mayor, was born in Trinidad and Tobago, while Col. Richard Moody — for whom Port Moody is named — was from Barbados.

The late Percy Perry, a track and field coach from Coquitlam whose name is on the Town Centre Park stadium, was a prominent Trinidadian in the Tri-Cities.

And even Douglas College, which has a campus in Coquitlam, takes its moniker from a statesman born in Guyana: Sir James Douglas.

But, later this month, Coquitlam City Centre will be filled with the sounds and sights of the tropics when the Trinidad and Tobago Cultural Society of B.C. brings its 33rd annual Caribbean Days Festival to Town Centre Park.

Festival chair Finderson Alves, a 40-year Coquitlam resident with his wife, Shannon, the society’s secretary, told the Tri-City News the free two-day celebration moved to Coquitlam because it outgrew its site in North Vancouver.

He said the Town Centre Park grounds not only offer plenty of room, but they’re easy to get to with a SkyTrain station nearby.

It had generous support from the City of Coquitlam, too, and, in particular, from Coun. Trish Mandewo who advocated for the festival relocation.

Coquitlam is providing $20,000 to the society for professional event management services plus a one-time $18,000 to market the new event in the city. As well, with the help of city staff, the society secured $77,000 in federal and provincial grants.

"We are hoping our festival will be bigger and better than ever," said society president Marilyn Perrin.

What's in store for the festival?

The fest opens at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 23, with the Parade in the Park at 10:30 a.m. followed by the official ceremony.

Entertainment — featuring Soca, Reggae, Calypso, Latin and African beats — will be on two stages: the Main Stage (TD Community Plaza) and the Multicultural Stage, on the southeastern side.

There will be educational workshops where you can learn more about the Caribbean culture like how to play a steelpan drum, wrap a sari and play cricket.

Children are also invited as there will be face-painting, as well as arts and crafts. Youth ages 11 to 16 can sign up for the 3x3 basketball tournament happening at the nearby court (registration is $50 for a team of four via Caribbean Days' website).

On Sunday, July 24, kids can also dress up in costume for the Children’s Carnival Parade at 1 p.m.

Meanwhile, the site will be fenced off for an open liquor licence. Coquitlam’s Mariner Brewing will run the beer service; Red Stripe beer from Jamaica, as well as ciders and coolers, will also be available.

Alves said the fest typically draws guests from as far afield as Vancouver Island and Washington State.

"The City of Coquitlam is excited to welcome the Caribbean Days Festival to our signature event site, Town Centre Park," Eric Kalnins, Coquitlam’s tourism manager, told the Tri-City News.

"Festivals support the local visitor economy and celebrate Coquitlam as a vibrant and diverse community in which to live and do business. We look forward to working with the Caribbean Days Festival to grow the event and establish it was a signature festival in Coquitlam for years to come."

The Tri-City News is a media sponsor of the event.

Can you help at the Caribbean Day Festival? The Trinidad and Tobago Cultural Society of B.C. needs volunteers, especially those with Serve It Right, to assist. Go to to sign up.

Entertainment lineup

July 23

  • 10 a.m. = DJ BJ Roots Cellar
  • 10:30 a.m. = Parade in the Park
  • 11:30 a.m. = Official Opening
  • 12:30 p.m. = Julio Avila Cuban Band
  • 1:30 p.m. = Mr. Fantastik
  • 2:30 p.m. = Belly Dancer
  • 3 p.m. = Sweet Pan
  • 4 p.m. = Limbo with KingFish and the Diversity Performing Arts Club of Calgary
  • 5 p.m. = Roots Reflexion
  • 6 p.m. = Boom Daddy
  • 7 p.m. = Tropical Breeze

July 24

  • 11 a.m. = DJ KIZUM
  • 12 p.m. = X-Kalibre
  • 1 p.m. = Out of Many
  • 2 p.m. = Children’s Parade
  • 3 p.m. = Limbo with KingFish and the Diversity Performing Arts Club of Calgary
  • 4 p.m. = Mostly Marley
  • 5 p.m. = Phase III Steelband
  • 6 p.m. = Super Blue

Cultural Show (both days)

  • 1 p.m. = Calypso/Soca (Abbla)- Aubrey Sixtoe
  • 2 p.m. = African Drumming – Len Blackford
  • 3 p.m. = East Indian Culture (Trinidad) - Avita Sharma
  • 4 p.m. = Steel Pan-Kenneth and Kenrick Headley