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Update:  Trinidad Carnival, 2001 

First some huge thank-yous

To Brenda, whose suggestion it was that we go to Trinidad for Carnival - what a brilliant idea! We had no idea how amazing it would be, and it was such fun to do it with our good friends from home.

To Trump Tours at Crews Inn complex in Chaguaramas - a great organisation that got all our tickets for the events, ferried us to an fro, and looked after us as we paraded the street on J'Ouvert morning. Thanks to them we enjoyed all the activities feeling safe and secure and were usually well positioned for taking photographs.


The pre-carnival activity starts to wind up some time around New Year, as the Mas Camps start the feverish activity of making costumes, the calypso tents get busy with new songs being performed, the pan yards echo to the sound of the steel bands practicing, masqueraders choose their favourite bands and costumes and fetes and parties are held to get everyone into the mood. However as we arrived just the week before Carnival proper, we missed the slow build up, but we were there in time to see some of the preliminary competitions leading up to the selection of Soca Monarch, Calypso Monarch and King & Queen of Carnival.

The Grandstand Events
The big events are all held at the Queen's Park Savannah, a huge area of parkland to the north of Port of Spain (Trinidad's bustling capital city). There the world's longest stage is flanked by two grandstands, and the competitions are judged in front of the audience on both sides. Many more people watch the proceeedings from outside the grandstand, and help with pushing the pans on stage or watching with awe as the costumed finalists prepare themselves for their stage entrance.
The events that we went to were:
  • King & Queen Prelims
  • Extempo and Limbo Finals
  • Panorama Finals
  • Dimanche Gras
  • Parade of Bands
There were other events that we couldn't attend, and we were particularly sorry to have missed the Kiddies Carnival parade and the Traditional Carnival. Although we did see the Junior King & Queen during Dimanche Gras, and a number of the olde time carnival figures showed up at the Parade of Bands and during J'Ouvert.
What a show! These events were really entertaining. The extremely loud music eventually starts to get into your system (even with earplugs) so that you seem to live and breathe the most popular songs and rhythms. Our favourite was the mighty Shadow, whose soca tunes could be heard accompanying many of the activities and who deservedly won both Soca Monarch and the Monarch of the Roads competition, for being the artist who was most heard during the parade on Tuesday.

Dimanche Gras (Sunday night)
On Sunday night, Dimanche Gras featured the climax of the competitions, as the costumed Kings and Queens vied for the title of King and Queen of Carnival, and the Calypso artists competed for the title of Calypso Monarch 2001. We were glad we had seen the run-up at the King & Queen Prelims, as only the largest and more complex entries made it through to the final round. Also we were able to see the extra effort that had gone in to making the costumes that extra bit special for this final judging - for example lights and even fireworks! 

J'Ouvert - The Start of Carnival 
(Monday morning 04:00 - 07:00)
 After the drama of Dimance Gras closes, the carnival proper gets under way with J'Ouvert, when certain bands and their followers take to the streets and really let their hair down and party. Each band has it's own colour theme, and the revellers are daubed with paint, mud, grease or talcum powder - beware!!!! Anyone passing may be 'invited' to join the band, by being splattered or smeared too. As we were guided through the streets with Annette and Arnold of Trump Tours, we jumped up with Phase 2001 and other bands along the way. The level of energy was fantastic and helped to carry us through a night without sleep, until after the sun came up. The atmosphere was great, very friendly and despite the large number of stalls selling beer and spirits, we didn't see any signs of trouble. One gets the feeling that this event harks back to some ancient festivities and has been re-enacted in one way or another by people over the centuries. It felt very liberating!

The Parade of Bands (Monday and Tuesday)
It seemed like the whole of Trinidad and their friends, relations and holidaymakers were participating! We arrived at the grandstand at 08:00 am, and the first band started crossing the stage soon after. It took an hour and a half for that first band to pass - there were thousands of them! There were a number of different sections, each with their own costume designs, in all colours. Clearly they were having a great time and enjoying their few moments on stage. Too see all these confident and sassy women in their revealing costumes encouraged Graham to take lots of photos (you can see his selections later). The parade continued all day, with bands large and small, with each of the bands competing for the treasured Band of the Year title.
Above: Carnival Monarch "Winds of Change" - there's a person in there somewhere, but this is a rear view (you can see the wheels which help the King to manouvre his costume)
Above: B after J'Ouvert, still wide awake and happy

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