The Trinidad Carnival Experience
You cannot help but admire the beauty of diverse faces and ethnicities united by one purpose.
Trinidad’s Carnival is an experience that cannot be encapsulated into words, trying to describe the phenomena to someone does not even come close to the rapture felt over the two days of costumed revelry in the streets. Someone once asked, albeit, for me to tantalize their imagination of what it is really like to “play mas”, the following is my best attempt at a literary description of the greatest show on earth.
Carnival Tuesday as the sun slowly rises in the east, masqueraders journey into Port of Spain to meet their band as today it is an early departure and no one wants to be left wandering the streets looking for a band that has left without you. It is encouraging to see others in costumes, walking the streets as well and the kinship of this love of Carnival fills you with delight. Upon finding the band, this is the moment when you get the first look of everyone in costume, and you cannot help but admire the beauty of diverse faces and ethnicities united by one purpose, under one banner.
The latest soca blasts from music trucks summoning the assemblage to get moving. Finally the band is mobile, thousands of masqueraders with one mission of getting to the first judging point. Spectators have already begun lining the parade route, taking in the spectacle of colour, feathers and beads glittering under the sunlight. Masqueraders dance in the street as the destination looms ahead; the pace slows when navigating the narrow streets with a platoon of trucks that supply the music, drinks and even a cool down zone!
Senses dulled with an intoxicating beverage of choice, adrenaline coursing through the veins, no one cares that it is blisteringly hot. The stage looms ahead, slowly masqueraders get into individual sections, the full impact of the costumes can be seen as hundreds of costumed revelers swaying to the music are illuminated by the sun as it rises in the sky. This is what you have been waiting for, after months of planning and anticipation, at long last the moment is here.
Security links arms, forming a human barrier to keep eager masqueraders from crossing the stage before it is time. Those blessed to be frontline masqueraders grace the stage first in their elaborate costumes, then as the barrier breaks, hundreds of masqueraders descend upon the stage, charging forward with renewed energy. This one instant is when any worry, stress or misery is cast off on the streets, replaced by a feeling of total liberation, bliss and enjoyment.
The exhilaration of music and others sharing this feeling with you, releases a spirit of uncontrollable desertion losing the last bit of self-control as bacchanalia takes a hold of you. Too soon the revelry is over; as masqueraders are gently ushered off stage you come back down to earth, spent and breathless. However, you must press on as the day is far from over. The dancing in the streets goes on for hours, seemingly driven by the infectious music, which causes even the weariest masquerader to summon that last bit of energy to move their hips as their feet keep moving.
As the suns sets on Tuesday, the day comes to a close. The crowd thins as exhausted masqueraders bow out, leaving behind the die-hard Carnival worshipers still going long after it gets dark. Soon it is time to say goodbye to another Carnival. Leaving the band exhausted and drained from the heat and exertion of the day. Every muscle in the body aches, yet you smile wondering how many days are left until you can do it all over again!
Carnival Activities for FREE!
There is no dollar amount tantamount to the experience of Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival; and as the Mastercard commercial goes it is indeed “priceless”. You can tally up the total amount of money spent to experience what is dubbed as The Greatest Show on Earth, however, you might be left with a feeling that Trinidad Carnival has now become one of the most expensive vacations ever.
With costumes averaging what some of us pay monthly for rent, fetes adding up to the equivalent of a second costume not to mention the never ending list of Carnival essentials that need to be purchased before getting on that plane some of us dare not do the math as we would then have to ask ourselves is there such a thing as “too much” when it comes to the love of Carnival. In spite of the glaring commercialism of this festival, there are still a few activities that one can enjoy in Trinidad and Tobago that will not break the strains of an already burdened wallet.
With a proliferation of Mas Camps in the Woodbrook area, namely between Rosalino and Gallus Streets, making a tour out of visiting each mas camp is an activity that will cost you nothing. The headquarters of TRIBE, Bliss, Fantasy, Paparazzi, Trini Revellers , Island People and D Krewe can all be found within the same block. At the mas camps, costumes are displayed for viewing, and one has a chance to observe these creations at leisure.
Woodford Square is the venue for a series of free mini concerts which take place every day at noon from January, featuring popular Soca stars such as , Machel Montano, Bunj, and Kes . This very popular event draws a huge crowd so it is best to get there early and enjoy the same artistes that perform at all the various fetes, only you will not be spending a dime!
If a little bit of history is what you desire, check out the Traditional Street Characters Parade from Memorial Park through the streets of Port of Spain on Carnival Friday (February 1st). Accompanied by music and performers such as Moko Jumbies, this ode to mas of long ago features Dame Lorraine, Sailor, Fancy Indian and Pierrot Grenade among other characters and is an enjoyable and informative look at Carnival of the past.
When it comes to “pretty mas”, nothing is a greater spectacle than Kiddies Carnival where the children parade in costumed splendor. This event takes place on Carnival Saturday. With free spectator stands lining the route from downtown Port of Spain to the Queens Park Savannah, pack a picnic basket, walk with a hat, sit and enjoy the spectacle.
A Beach Run
Maracas Beach is Trinidad’s premiere water playground, with a long sandy stretch of coconut lined seafront; this beach attracts locals in droves on the weekends. This is the ideal spot for a respite from the hectic pace of Carnival fetes. Enjoy the scenic drive through the rainforest and sample a culinary delight called “shark and bake” when you get there.
If time allows, make a quick visit to some of the beaches of Tobago. You can easily achieve this for little expense by taking the 2 hour fast ferry, at just under $50.00US. The ferry departs Trinidad for Tobago in the early morning and returns in the late afternoon making a day trip possible.
It takes little to enjoy the strains of steel pan music from a Pan Yard, chipping down the road covered in mud at J’ouvert or enjoying an impromptu lime at the home of a friend. Take this advice, embrace all that is Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival and forge memorable adventures of your own, that are indeed priceless.