The Port of Spain Carnival Parade is dying!
2,000 “masqueraders” in a band cross the stage downtown on Carnival Monday and not one of them is wearing a costume. The largest Carnival band in all its glory crosses the big stage in the Savannah on Carnival Tuesday and there are no spectators in the stands to see it.
The people jumping up all day in the middle of a large band are undoubtedly enjoying the experience and the bandleaders are laughing all the way to the bank, but the fact remains, the “world famous” Trinidad and Tobago Carnival has become a farce.
Masqueraders are in the minority
Most of the visitors who come to Trinidad for the pre-Lenten Carnival do not play Mas’. Most of the people who come to Port of Spain from the other districts on Carnival Monday and Tuesday do not play Mas’ either. For most of the people in the city on those two days, the Carnival experience is mostly off the track, and it follows that most of the economic returns from the Carnival parade come from non-masqueraders. Foreign visitors alone spend over US$50 million, probably a half of what could be earned through simple improvements in the quality of the product.
The marketing of Carnival in recent years seems largely intended to increase the number of masqueraders on the road, and the growing numbers suggest that this marketing is indeed succeeding. But ironically, this very success is the undoing of the spectacle that the Carnival parade is supposed to be, and undermining the entire Carnival experience. “Show” and “spectacle” indicate a visual experience.
More people might be playing mas, but even more people want to see Mas’. And that does not mean seeing a party in the road, but a parade of masqueraders passing by and putting on a “show”. Furthermore, when they are not actually looking at the parade, these customers want services, security and facilities where they can enjoy the off-track Carnival experience. That enjoyment, even more than the spectacle, is what will make them come back for more.
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The Carnival Loop® is a river of masqueraders and music trucks/steelbands that flows at a constant speed along a fixed route through the city and loops back on itself.
Only the music and the masqueraders are on the move. Drinks, food, washrooms, First Aid, cooling sprays, massages, etc. are provided by licensed, independent operators at fixed points called “stations” and “pit stops” along the route. Large drinks trucks – and “wee wee” trucks - are reduced in size or eliminated.
The bands are evenly spread around the Loop in manageable segments
The bands are classified as very large (1,000+), large (600+), medium (250+), small (50+) and mini (11-49). Each segment consists of one large – or very large - band followed by a medium band and a number of smaller bands.
All bands in the Loop start to move at the same time; move at the same average speed, and finish where they started.
The bands assemble by 7:00 AM, start to move at 8:00 AM, stop for lunch at noon, move again at 1:30 PM, and get back to their starting points at 6:00 PM. If, for example, the Loop is ten kilometres long, the river flows for ten hours at one kilometre per hour. (On Carnival Monday, the Bands assemble by 10:00 AM and the parade begins at 11:00, lasting for seven hours with no lunch break.)
The bandleaders draw their starting points each year six months before Carnival
They will thus know, well in advance, at what time they will be crossing each major stage and can plan their presentations accordingly.
All bands in the Loop have to move along the route at the same average speed.
The large bands have to arrive at each Timing Point on the hour, followed by the other bands. There are heavy penalties for arriving late – and heavier penalties for delaying the appearance of the next band; the bigger the band, the heavier the penalty.
The whole parade is coordinated from a Central Command Centre
This includes a specially designed Loop Management System – including GPS tracking of the lead trucks in the large bands and mobile communications - to control the flow of the masqueraders between the Timing Points along the route.
For more information:
Tel: (868) 759-0994