Not even a worldwide pandemic could stop one of Essex County’s most beloved annual traditions.
As events and gatherings around the globe are being cancelled or postponed due to Covid-19, the Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex County was faced with having to call off the area’s longest running festival, Carrousel of the Nations.
The award-winning festival has taken place every June for the past 45 years, with villages across the region showcasing the diverse cultures and cuisines of nationalities from around the globe.
“Carrousel has been a part of our city since 1976, and we couldn’t imagine a year without it,” explains Pam Mady, Communications Manager for the MCC. “We began looking into ways we could celebrate safely, and the feedback we received was incredible.”
Together with volunteers from the local villages and ethnic communities, the team devised a creative plan to keep the spirit of the celebration alive while still respecting physical distancing guidelines.
The solution? Move the festivities online.
The organization’s first-ever social media-based celebration will take place Friday, June 26th and Saturday, June 27th. “Carrousel @ Home” will be based entirely online and will feature many wonderful traditions from festival favourites including the Polish, Italian, and Chinese villages. There are even a few newcomers to this year’s lineup, including the Myanmarese and Bhutanese communities.
The event will be streamed simultaneously on Facebook Live and Twitch and will be hosted by Carrousel of the Nations Chair and Multicultural Council President, Allison Johnson. Representatives from 26 different nationalities across Windsor-Essex will share vibrant music and dance performances, as well as cooking demonstrations, poetry readings, and traditional presentations unique to their cultures.
“It is so important to do this because we should never lose touch with our culture,” says Indian Carrousel volunteer Aruna Koushik, whose Nupur Jhankar Dance Group will be performing during the live stream. “It’s time to celebrate. To celebrate that we are alive, that we are doing positive things in this world and that we are going to come out of this Covid situation with renewed vigor.”
Food will also remain an important aspect of this year’s celebration. In addition to the online performances, several of the Carrousels will be offering some of their signature dishes for takeout and curbside pickup.
The Greek Orthodox Community of Windsor, which hosts the popular Greek carrousel, got a jumpstart on the celebration and began curbside pickup of their famous gyros, spinach pies, and honey balls last week.
“The response we’ve received so far has been amazing,” says organizer George Pardalis. “When people eat, it just brings back memories of the festival and being with their family. That’s what the food is all about; we want to keep the connection going. It’s tradition.”
Not only does Carrousel @ Home allow local residents to connect from the safety and comfort of their own house, it also allows Windsorites living abroad a chance to participate.
“We’ve had people who’ve moved out of the city reach out and tell us how excited they are,” explains Mady. “People from Toronto, the US, and London; they’re all looking forward to sharing the tradition of Carrousel with their families. It brings back a lot of fond memories for them.”
“We have family from Greece and Australia that will be watching and experiencing it with us,” adds Pardalis.
While the volunteers are looking forward to hosting the festival in its traditional form next year, they all agree that the online performances could remain an element of future Carrousel of the Nations celebrations, allowing more people to connect.
“There are smaller communities that may not have a venue where they can perform,” notes Koushik. “Why not say, ‘let’s do this by Zoom’ and have people performing in their own backyard as part of the celebration? Carrousel can only expand from here, and the new technology is a blessing.”
“The social media aspect has been a great way for us to get the word out and celebrate our cultural diversity,” shares Pardalis. “Each one of the villages is really trying to carry on the language, the traditions, the food. Those are the things that keep us all connected as a community.”
For the full list of participating nations, performance schedules, and food options, follow the Carrousel of the Nations Facebook page or visit their website https://www.carrouselofnations.com