This year I decided to make the ultimate sacrifice. I made up my mind to do the absolutely unthinkable—skip St Lucia carnival! Yeah, you heard right. And I was absolutely in my right mind when I decided to miss the most anticipated St Lucian event of the year. I have no idea what I was thinking at the time…
Friends had been talking about Caribana for months and we made up our minds that unlike our always failing Trinidad Carnival plans, we would go to Caribana in Toronto, Canada, no ifs, buts or maybes—and we did.
As with all other things, there were the ups, downs and the ‘WTFs’, but all in all, I would say we all came out of it better people… (Straight face) On a more serious note though, we did leave, (at least I did) with a greater appreciation for St Lucia carnival and what it has become.
On the upside, there was a high level of St Lucians everywhere you looked! St Lucian flags were easy to acquire and my friends and I went all out buying bandanas, wristbands and the works. Our national pride was soaring at an all time high! At every carnival event we went to St Lucians represented to the max, and when we heard Ricky-T’s Pressure Boom (albeit old) all sense of decency was lost. It would have been fantastic though, if more St Lucian artistes were represented with recent tracks!
The first disappointment came when we received our costumes. Gems were falling out before we even tried them on and almost all six of our costumes bras were too big and we were forced to turn to the expertise of a seamstress.
We spent the next couple days worrying about how it would all turn out, and in the end it was well worth the worry. In addition to already loose gems, in order to adjust the costumes the Indian seamstress had been forced to remove endless other gems, much to our dismay. Now we were faced with the challenge of somehow sticking those gems back, so we did the next best thing. We bought ‘special glue’ made to stick gems on clothing, which turned out to be another disaster.
We all sat in our hotel rooms literally for hours, growing more and more frustrated that the ‘gem adhesive’ was making more of a mess than fixing things. The ‘glue’, which was a serious rip off took hours to ‘stick’ but not really stick things back in place. I couldn’t help but think of how flawless my always- dependable St Lucia Red Unlimited Band costumes always were!
A ray of sunshine and hope peered through our hotel suite windows the next morning—well not exactly. The sun had already been up when we got back from a not so great “jouvert party.” Anyhow, despite getting just a couple hours of sleep, me being the “overly excited and ever-optimistic one” rushed to my costume which I’d strategically placed with the troublesome gems under the leg of one of the chairs in the room, thanks to one of my friend’s bright ideas and lifted the costume. As if by magic, not one gem fell out.
The magic was short lived though. By the time we’d made our way three hours late to meet our band, stopping constantly to entertain awestruck people who wanted pictures with the ‘carnival ladies,’ and finally found our band, we’d left a Cinderella like trail of gems behind.
At that point we made up our minds to have fun and forget about costume malfunctions! We danced through a seemingly endless amount of bands before we found our band and along the way things picked up. Hearing Soca, Dancehall, House music and more on the road was surreal. In fact, Pitt Bull’s “Give Me Everything” was played so much throughout the day that locally he might have won road march!
Unfortunately, another disappointment came when we went searching for food only to find that the one serving, (yes one!) had been done prior to getting on the road. There were absolutely no snacks available either—for the entire day! To be quite honest we all felt as if we’d die at that point. We hadn’t had time for breakfast and had to wait until the end of the route to get grub!
By the end of the day we were “mash up” and alcohol had nothing to do with it. Unlike in St Lucia it’s illegal to drink in public, so serving alcohol on the road wasn’t part of the deal. In Toronto, you either found a way to sneak it in, (which isn’t very hard) or you stay without. I have to say, it was much harder jumping such a long route without the slightest alcohol encouragement! We jumped with our band then headed back to jump with another popular band and even before we saw the end of the route we were done. We could barely drag our tired bodies back to the hotel, surprising because two days of St Lucian carnival (compared to one day of Caribana) never left any of us in such dire condition!
To top things off, just as we were about to get out of the Caribana frenzy, ‘disaster’ stuck. We got caught in one of those mass stampedes of people that we later found out was caused by a very serious shooting. Now I confess, I didn’t wait around to see what was going on. I took off in top speed as fast and as far away from whatever as possible. Luckily my friends and I all wound up running to the same spot, otherwise who knows how we’d have found each other.
The high and lows of Caribana only led to one conclusion. I am simply not missing St Lucia carnival ever again!