Carnival Tuesday—the most effervescent and jovial day on the cultural calendar of Trinidad and Tobago, an explosion of colour and wild, passionate abandon—was anything but yesterday at what should have been the heart and soul of downtown Port of Spain Carnival celebrations.
Instead, pace at the South Quay judging point, once the most popular spot after the Queen’s Park Savannah stage, was tediously slow, with long lulls in what should have ideally been a constant procession of bands of all sizes.
Only two large bands out of close to 30—Dream Team Carnival, portraying I Am and Paparazzi Carnival with Centerstage—crossed the South Quay stage early in the morning, leaving a trickle of small, medium and mini bands in their wake.
By the time the Express left South Quay at 4 p.m., they remained the only large band to cross the stage.
The dearth of large bands meant these smaller bands—many with fewer than ten participants—dominated the downtown action.
These bands, which featured more traditional characters like sailors, Pierrot Grenades, Midnight Robbers and Red Indians, maximised their 15 minutes of fame and did much to cut the dullness of the day, but spectators expecting a spectacle were still unimpressed by the lack of excitement that would have tended to accompany a bigger band.
At times, the wait seemed extraordinary, with long spells reaching as much as half-hour between bands, averaging about ten or 15 minutes.
Sometimes, bands might have had just a few performers, but the break in the monotony was enough to send a shiver of excitement through the often bored crowd.
Spectators, usually thronging the pavements along South Quay which had been transformed into a stage, were sparse.
A much larger but no less disillusioned mass of people was gathered along Broadway, trying to figure out ways to spend time not watching mas.
Most people blamed the new routes for Carnival that diverted several of the large bands to the new and controversial Socadrome at Jean Pierre Complex.
“There is no tempo in downtown. It just missing. Is like Carnival disappear,” said Gabriel Richards from Chaguanas.
“Carnival is not Carnival anymore. This is not good at all; something has to be done. I vex I not seeing any band passing. Carnival born here in downtown not in the west,” stated East Dry River resident Michael Toney.
“I’ve been standing here for three hours and I’ve only seen three bands pass. It’s slow and boring. I was here in 2006 and it was exciting—nothing like this,” Atlanta, Georgia, USA resident Kenneth Adamson added.
Even food and drink vendors said sales were the slowest they had in years.
The only people who seemed to be thriving were taxi-drivers, offering trips to the Savannah at twice the normal rate—$10 a head.
“There is the economic component of Carnival, with a focus on vending, some vendors look for this opportunity once a year ... their peak season is Carnival. But with (all the different decisions like route changes), vendors have not been factored in, because when you move Carnival from downtown from where there is a concentration of people (there will be an impact). Taxi-drivers, on the other hand, will exploit the opportunity,” Port of Spain Mayor Raymond Tim Kee told reporters.