JENSEN LA VENDE and JELANI BECKLES
FOR MOST of yesterday, mas in Carnival city was split between the Queen's Park Savannah and the Socadrome with action in downtown picking up late in the afternoon as during the night for las' lap.
In total, 76 bands in various categories were registered to cross the stages for Carnival Monday and Tuesday. Twenty-four passed Piccadilly Street on Monday and by the time Newsday left on Tuesday around 2 pm, 17 bands passed.
To some, these figure may seem plentiful particularly for the judging area, having been labelled as unsafe due to its proximity to parts of Laventille. To others it was a sign that Carnival in East Port of Spain had seen better years.
Newsday spoke with vendors and officials safety officials and both said the turnout by spectators and bands were low in the two days.
One vendor recalled waiting for at least three hours on J’Ouvert morning for a band to pass so he could have a sale. Others complained that many of the bands were all-inclusive so even when they did pass, there was no need for the masqueraders to patronise vendors' stalls lining Piccadilly Street.
The highlight for some on Monday was responding to a costume catching fire after getting in contact with electrical wires. The masquerader in the costume and those who assisted her escaped without harm.
According to an official report, Antourage Productions, a mini band, was making its way when at 1.43 pm the costume became entangled in overhead electrical wires and caught afire. After an hour the road was re-opened and other bands were allowed to continue. The band was the fifth to cross the stage.
All Stars passed the judges, sticking to their tradition of Sailor Mas, whitened the street with their powder and had their patrons chipping to steelpan playing Blaxx’s Gyal Owner.
National Carnival Commission (NCC) chairman Winston "Gypsy" Peters and chairman of downtown Carnival Wendell Stephen both expressed satisfaction with the number of bands on South Quay, but some vendors and spectators thought the volume of traffic was slow.
Stephen said, "We are very satisfied once again (with) downtown, because yesterday (Monday) we saw quite a lot of bands passing, so much so that up until 8 pm last evening we still had bands crossing the downtown stage.
"We had a constant flow yesterday (Monday) with many of the large bands Lost Tribe, Paparazzi, Tribe, Ronnie and Caro, Showtime and smaller bands (passing)....today (yesterday) we started at 8 am and we saw Lost Tribe again pass, Paparazzi again pass and we have had a flow since then (with bands such as) Massy Trinidad All Stars."
Stephen was not worried about the slow period at lunch time yesterday, saying bands stop for lunch and he expected more bands to parade downtown later in the evening.
NCC chairman Peters was satisfied with the flow of bands downtown saying, "I think it is fantastic. I have been looking at it since this (yesterday) morning and I think the vibrance of the Carnival is showing."
Peters was not concerned about the number of bands passing downtown, saying spectators tend to move around Port of Spain. "Remember different people have different bands and when one set of people like a certain band they will follow it somewhere else so the crowd is not a problem. The most important thing is that the crowd is here, there and everywhere," Peters said.
Some of the spectators Newsday spoke to at lunch time yesterday were disappointed with the number of bands they saw. One man described the traffic as "terrible" and another spectator said it was the "worst downtown Carnival I ever saw."
There were mixed feelings among vendors on South Quay, with some describing sales as slow and others saying they were happy.
MAS FOR ALL
At the Socadrome in Mucurapo, PoS Mayor Joel Martinez said the mas catered to all spectators as there was not any one major concentration of bands in one area.
"I've been downtown this morning. I've been to Piccadilly Greens. I've been to the Savannah and I've been to the Socadrome. Yes, there are people who have been divided on whether mas in downtown is slower than usual, but it is another opportunity for people to view Carnival.
"Some people are able to view Carnival from this side and there are a lot of people downtown. My experience is that there are a lot of people in the different areas right now," Martinez said.
He added that the Socadrome has not taken away from downtown Carnival. "Our stand is pretty full, and we had a lot of people downtown viewing mas. I was there this morning very early, at 9.30, when I was visited by the Commissioner of Police and the Minister of National Security.
"What we did was take a walk from Downtown and we walked to Piccadilly Greens and there were a lot of people there. And then we walked to the Savannah there were a fair amount of people in the Savannah. Not as much as I would have liked to normally see, but it was quite early.
"Then we walked to the Savannah to Ariapita Avenue where a lot of people were viewing mas at the side of the road and then we came to the Socadrome, yes it is fairly full on one side. I am happy to see a lot of people coming out. I am pleased with the security. Our defence force. They came out and served our people for Carnival," Martinez said.
Additional reporting by RACHAEL ESPINET