St James transformed into a sea of vibrant colours on Sunday as children came out in their numbers to parade the streets despite the blazing sun and Sahara dust.
There were toddlers in baby strollers, some in their parents’ arms fighting off sleep, while others seemed to soak up the sun as a fuel source, lining the streets and pavements. Those who were not playing looked on from the pavement, dancing to the music.
Mical Teja’s popular song DNA was a favourite amongst the crowd: whenever it played, kids belted out the lyrics word for word.
President of the St James Carnival Committee Anthony Ferguson spoke with Newsday, saying he was pleased with the turnout.
“We have 60 bands registered and others are still coming in, so the figure will go up. There are mini, small, medium and large band categories.”
Police were out in their numbers, with officers on horseback causing a stir of excitement for the children as they moved along the Western Main Road.
“We have always had a great relationship with officers, they always support our event and it is always incident-free. We always ensure the children and families are safe, the officers show up and work hard,” Ferguson said.
But Ferguson did have a message for the business community.
“Some businesses have supported and continue to support us, but we need more help from the business community. This is about keeping tradition alive, this is about creating a safe space for children.”
Ferguson said results for the parade’s 34th competition will be released on Wednesday and no theme was chosen for this year, saying it was just about the mas. Last year’s winner, DMC Kids Mas, also took part and the winning band will be awarded the Yvonne Mungal Challenge Trophy.
Categories include best use of local materials, creativity and local themes, as well as the traditional bands of the year and the junior king and queen of Carnival.
Vendor Simone Smart from Arima said she was enjoying the costume display.
“I love the bright colours, the kids look so adorable in their costumes and this heat and dust don’t seem to be bothering them one bit.”
Smart told Newsday business was slow.
Even with infectious music and spectacular children’s costumes, the parade faced a noticeably low turnout compared to previous years. Smart expressed disappointment.
“This year, there are a lot fewer people than last year.
“I don’t know if it’s because of the crime situation or people’s sinuses bothering them with the Sahara dust. It’s really a shame because the costumes are so rich and colourful, and the children are so beautiful.” Smart continued, “People need to come out and support when there are events for kids because when it’s big people’s mas, they come out in their numbers. We have to encourage the youths to come out for these occasions and see how much the little ones are having fun.”
Doting grandfather Eustace Brown from Curepe said while he was struggling in the heat and with the dust, he could not miss his granddaughter’s first parade.
His granddaughter was asleep in her stroller in a bright pink East Indian-inspired costume next to him.
“Well, right now, she’s sleeping, but that’s okay, because yesterday she was out feteing as well. So it is when you’re young.”
Asked about the event, Brown said he is enjoying the display of costumes but hopes to see more traditional costumes next year.
“I love we keep this thing alive, it’s we thing. But I think we should have more midnight robbers, pierrot grenade, those types of traditional mas, everyone looking really nice. More of this is what the country needs to bring us together.”
Brown had some issues with some vendors’ prices.
“Well, I paid $25 for a snowcone for my granddaughter. I know everybody has to make a profit, but they need to really consider the family who has three and four children out here.”
Brown also commended the police presence, saying it was “excellent.”
Zipporah Singh from St Augustine brought her two children to watch the bands.
“This was my first time coming and watching the parade, I love it and the costumes are beautiful.”
She also praised the work of the police, saying she felt safe.