Mississauga cultural festival marks first year without founder Hazel McCallion

May 28, 2023 | Life, News

Carassauga is back in Mississauga for its 38th year with a brand new set of countries for attendees to visit.

The event kicked off on Friday, with its opening ceremony announcing all the participating countries. This year, the ceremony was dedicated to former Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion, who died of pancreatic cancer in January at the age of 101.

Former Carassauga chair Jake Dheer says McCallion was instrumental in creating the cultural festival 37 years ago.

“She was a kind soul that led by example,” Jake Dheer said. “We want to celebrate the achievements of our legend.”

He paid tribute to the longtime mayor during the opening festivities at the Portuguese Cultural Centre.

He recalled an early meeting where she gathered representatives from a number of the city’s cultural groups saying “look need we to bring everyone together and celebrate togetherness,” Dheer said. “It operated in 1986 with 10 pavilions.”

Over the course of three days, Carassauga turns areas across the city into cultural centres. Visitors carry around a passport throughout the pavilions and get stamps per country and continent visited. From music, dance performances, traditional cuisine, and cultural shops, visitors get to fully indulge in the country.

This year’s passport features an entire page dedicated to McCallion.

“We thank her for her endless commitment to serving the needs of this organization and all of Mississauga,” it reads.

Chairman Mark Ruta and ex-chairman Jake Dheer on stage at the Carassauga opening ceremony.

Chairman Mark Ruta and ex-chairman Jake Dheer at the Carassauga opening ceremony. Photo credit: Jeanine Tajeddine

member of Parliament Omar Alghabra also took the stage at the opening ceremonies to express the importance of the event for Canadians.

“You know what’s so amazing about Carissauga? I know we have one Canadian pavilion, but in all honesty, the entire Carissauga is one large Canadian pavilion Because it really reflects The diversity And the nations of Canadian identities And Canadian cultures,” Omar Alghabra said.

Rink 1 at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre for the African and Croatian pavilion, where hundreds of people gather.

Rink 1 at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre for the African and Croatian pavilion. Photo credit: Jeanine Tajeddine

The opening festivities also featured a parade of all the countries featured at this year’s Carassauga.

The Paramount Fine Foods Centre hosted most countries. Four rinks, the parking lot, the gym, and the lobby, each occupied a set of countries.

In the second rink, China and Lebanon shared the space for Asia.

For Lebanon’s performance, a large group of Lebanese dancers took the stage with traditional dances and music.

Lebanese dancers performancing at rink 2 at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre in Mississauga.

The Lebanese dance performance at rink 2 at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre in Mississauga. Photo credit: Jeanine Tajeddine

“The Lebanese dancers were by far my favourite,” Hania El said. “It was like, loud and energetic and you can see how everyone here couldn’t look away.”

Hania El is a Mississauga resident and remembers Hazel McCallion when she was mayor.

“I’m not into politics much, but I remember her as mayor and her appreciation for everyone’s culture,” Hania El said. “As an immigrant, it was nice to feel welcomed.”

The Egyptian pavilion was at the Canadian Coptic Centre.

A camel and the Egyptian pyramid at the Egyptian pavilion in the parking lot at the Canadian Coptic Centre.

The Egyptian pavilion in the parking lot at the Canadian Coptic Centre. Photo credit: Jeanine Tajeddine

Inside the church held vendors and a fashion show. Outside in the parking lot, the Egypt pavilion had camels and other native animals, as well as food vendors selling an array of Egyptian specialties.

Attendees were especially enjoying the camels, with a lineup of kids and adults to feed them.

Other locations include the Frank McKechnie Community Centre and the St. Sava Serbian Centre.