There will be an increase in the prizes for the Senior Carnival King and Queen competition.
TT Carnival Bands Association (TTCBA) president Rosalind Gabriel says the figures for the prizes had not yet been released but the winners of the competition would “be in for a nice surprise.”
Last year, the King and Queen both received $185,000.
Another positive change is the return of the competition to the Dimanche Gras stage after several years.
“The Kings and Queens competition has not been in the Dimanche Gras for a very long while. It will give the competition an element of excitement.”
She said initially the finals for the senior and junior competitions were supposed to be on Carnival Friday night. However, the TTCBA was asked to give up that time for the International Soca Monarch competition so she negotiated for the night of Carnival Sunday (February 23) instead.
“Having been intermittently involved in meetings with all of the mas fraternity right through the year, the top of the Kings and Queens wish list was to go back in Dimanche Gras. It’s what they always wanted and I saw an opportunity to get them where they would like to be.”
The Junior Kings and Queens, as well as the Conventional Individuals competitions, will be held at Adam Smith Square on Carnival Thursday night, February 20.
Asked about the quality of the finals, Gabriel said she was happy about the creativity of several costumes she saw at the preliminaries on Thursday, adding that even some of the large costumes had excellent workmanship. “I found that the standard of creativity, the standard of presentation on Thursday, were really gratifying. So I will be looking forward to Dimanche Gras.”
While glad to return to the Dimanche Gras stage, the reigning King and Queen and their bands were apprehensive about some elements.
Mini band Moko Somõkõw bandleader Alan Vaughan said it was nice to be part of Dimanche Gras, however, he was concerned that, since the competition was part of a show, the organisers may not consider the needs of moko jumbies, particularly in the use of confetti on the stage.
“A moko jumbie can’t walk on it. They could slip. It’s too dangerous. If that happens there’s no way we can send anyone on stilts onto the stage.”
He said the band’s queen, Shynel Brizan would return to the stage even though she was pregnant as she was an integral part of the band and contributed to making the mas. He said moko jumbies had “ground walkers” and stilts of a range of heights so not having her stilts was not an issue.
In fact, he said her pregnancy turned out to be a significant part of the portrayal of her character. “The character she is portraying, Ruth, represents motherhood. She got pregnant and we said, ‘Let’s use it. Let’s make the most of the pregnancy.’”
Brizan said the thought of not being queen of the band never crossed her mind. She considered using shorter stilts for Ruth but to be safe she decided to remain on the ground and she was fine with that. She said the baby was due in the second week of March so she hoped the baby would “stay where he is supposed to” until after Dimanche Gras.
She said having the mas in Dimanche Gras was something different and something for the audience to look forward to but, as a performer, it was the same Savannah stage and made no difference to her.
Entourage Productions bandleader Varma Leo Lakhan said he liked the return of the competition to Dimanche Gras and found it should never have been removed. He added that he would also like to see the return of the Calypso Monarch competition to Dimanche Gras. “At the end of the day it’s about the merry monarch, the curtains come down on the final show for Carnival and J’Ouvert begins.”
However, he said, by the time Dimanche Gras finished and the costumes were broken down for transport, there were only a few hours before the costumes had to be mounted up again for judging on the road. In addition, he said some costumes had to be modified to reduce the size to fit on the streets of Port of Spain so it was a lot of work.
The 2019 Carnival, and the band’s, King, Joseph Lewis, said he would work hard to defend his title saying he was eager and excited to entertain the crowd and “wow” the judges.
He too was looking forward to performing at Dimanche Gras. He said he grew up looking at mas and having Dimanche Gras lead into J’Ouvert morning and launching Carnival. “It is an atmosphere we have lost over the years and it’s nice to see they are trying to bring it back. It’s nice to have the mas back on the Sunday, for mas to lead into the mas, to welcome the Parade of the Bands. It’s nice for spectators not to have that break in atmosphere.”
Unfortunately, Lewis said last year Dimanche Gras was a challenge for the winning masqueraders, especially those with larger costumes, to manoeuver through the tents of the other participants of the show. He hoped they would be accommodated this time around.
He added that holistically and historically TT Carnival was about mas and calypso. He believed the National Carnival Commission should consider a way to include both competitions in the Dimanche Gras. He said the format would resonate with many but he knew change was inevitable so he looked forward to seeing what change would bring in the future.