Every year, some of Cayman’s top youth pan talent tries to travel to Toronto for a major Caribbean festival.
This year’s planned trip, between 26 July and 8 August, comprises four performances at the Caribana Festival including defending the winners’ title at the Pan Alive Steel Band Competition, says Earl LaPierre.
“We have gone to the competition for the last three years. Over the years, I have been very successful and we are defending champions from last year. We are trying to add more steel band players from different schools and smaller schools so they can have the experience of enjoying a pan competition that is more serious. It is like Trinidad,” he says.
“Afropan is the band we join up with up there and we have won the contest 31 out of 39 times. The students here may not get a chance to go to Trinidad for carnival but this is definitely the closest as they will get – it is humungous. Bands go from 55 up to 80 players,” he says.
The festival lasts 10 days with shows, kings and queens, shows and parades, explains Earl.
“It is both professional development and having fun [for the kids],” he says.
This all costs money, of course, and the whole two-week trip, which also includes cultural elements and a once-in-a-lifetime visit to Niagara Falls, has associated costs of $12,000.
“We have already raised $7,000 but are still looking to raise $5,000. You know, the kids go around asking for sponsorship. Some might give one dollar, some $5, but we take what we can get.
“It is a hard time for everyone with money, so really we take whatever we can get. After all, we are representing Cayman and I am talking to the Department of Tourism about uniforms for these 25 people. We want to be a team, at the airport. It is about three steel bands together and we want to look like a team like we are going to the Olympics,” Earl says.
Corporate sponsors are also welcome to get involved, he continues.
“We can put up signs on the float parade, banners from our sponsors, which advertise the people who have helped. We will have performances and also go to City Hall – the mayor’s office always hosts us for a morning and the mayor asks about Cayman plus tells us about the youth in Toronto. It is really an exchange. It is fun, but a lot of knowledge as well,” says the pan dude.
There are also block parties where it would be possible to put up banners and hand out information about sponsors, he says.
Involved in the trip are members of UCCI Pandemix, Panoramers and Cayman Prep and High School Steel Pan Band.
A special Summer Swing fundraising concert will take place at RoofTop bar on Thursday, 28 June. It’s $5 for admission or $10 for admission with a raffle entry. The Summer Swing takes place between 7pm and 1am, with steel bands playing. Happy Hour is from 5.30 to 8pm. Tickets are available in advance from Le Classique, RoofTop Lounge, Pandemix and Panoramers Members.