INTERIM president of the Tobago October Carnival Association (TOCA) Dexter Sandy says the majority of its members are in favour of the move to shift all major activities to the capital city, Scarborough.
“As a group, we deliberated about it and the majority of the association’s members said that they were in agreement with the shift to centralising it in Scarborough,” he told Newsday on Tuesday.
Sandy, leader of Iconic Mas, said last year’s J’Ouvert in Crown Point was a logistical nightmare for revellers, spectators and others heading to their workplaces.
“There was a bottleneck, and based on that logistic failure last year, even the police and all echoed it in saying that, after the J’ouvert was finished, there was gridlock of traffic and other things that occurred in the space. They said that based on the numbers of persons in that space, it was just too much.”
He said Scarborough offers several options for parking as well as entry and exit points.
“You could have the festival centralised, whether it is on the waterfront area and the port and market not literally shut down. There are different advantages with Scarborough.
“So we are saying, it is the second year, let’s try something new and see how it works. If it doesn’t work, then in the third year we can revert. But we as an association are in support of centralising of all the activities in Scarborough for the carnival weekend.”
TOCA issued a statement on Monday outlining its mission and objectives.
Its mission is to “elevate the look and feel of the carnival product in the Tobago space by working together with all mas practitioners, enthusiasts and stakeholders to create another destination carnival to be reckoned with. “
TOCA said it is also committed to “nurturing a sense of togetherness and belonging among our members, while working towards another driving force with socio-economic benefits for our space.
“We firmly believe that our collective efforts and working together with the THA we can definitely make a significant impact in the mas Industry.”
Sandy said TOCA is made up of mas bandleaders participating specifically in the October carnival.
“It is not as the name may imply. Somebody may look at the name and think it will cover the entire carnival. Right now, the composition of the group is the mas bandleaders.”
At present, he said, there are about 15 mas bands registered with the group, “but it is not to replace the other bandleaders’ groups that function for the national Carnival.”
Sandy said members have been brainstorming on ways to improve the carnival experience.
“We have different concepts and ideas as to how the carnival should be shaped and what we decided to do, after last year’s experience, we decided to form an association where we could see what made sense, what did not make sense, and with that will, as a collective group, we could now present to (Tobago) Festivals Commission and say, as a mas band, this is what we are looking at.”
For example, he recalled the fiasco that resulted from a shortening of the mas route in Scarborough.
“Vendors expected the route to go down to Lambeau. But it did not. And at the end of it, in our post mortem as bandleaders, we realise that the route that we actually went on last year, worked. It was enough. We didn’t need to go down to Lambeau. So as a collective group, we agreed on that.”
Sandy said, while last year’s parade began at Shaw Park, this year his group was recommending a change in the route.
“This year, we have recommended to Festivals (Commission) that we should go in the opposite direction. So we go up on the (Claude Noel) highway first and later in the evening when the spectators are out, around 4 pm, we actually meet on the waterfont. It is really a better look and feel at that time of the day for the mas along the waterfront.”
He said apart from trying to identify some rest spot locations, they were also encouraging collaborations among small bands.
“We have seen in the past where bands might have small numbers like 20 people. So we are trying to encourage bands, as an association to team up so that you will have collaborations on the road.
“We can have two to three bands coming on the road and sharing resources like music trucks, drinks trucks. This will really help us when it comes to economies of scale.”
Sandy said TOCA was working on establishing its social media page by next week.
“This will not take away from the THA’s Welcome Tobago page. But we will have a separate page where people can get information as it relates to mas. We will also highlight other activities such as promoters having individual events. So the marketing will have one voice, not individual pockets.”
Meanwhile, the Tobago Tourism Agency Ltd (TTAL) has unveiled the island’s 2023 October Carnival itinerary.
The calendar of activities was revealed on Monday in a flyer posted on Facebook.
The event kicks off with the junior and senior calypso monarch competitions on October 13 and 14, respectively, at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex.
October 15, it’s off to Bloody Bay Recreation Ground for the popular Blue Food Festival.
The opening of the Festival Grounds at the Scarborough Esplanade on October 23 makes way for the soca monarch competition on October 25 at the same venue.
On October 26, all roads lead to Cyd Gray Sporting Complex, Roxborough, for Rox Glo. This will be followed by Pan Trinbago’s Rhythm, Steel and Powder on October 27.
The event shifts into high gear with J’ouvert and D’Masquerade (DNight Mas) in Scarborough on October 28.
It climaxes on October 29 with the Parade of Bands in the capital city.
Tobago hosted its inaugural Carnival, last year, from October 28-30.