SPECTATORS outnumbered masqueraders at J’Ouvert celebrations on February 12 in Crown Point, Tobago.
The event, which was scheduled to begin at 4 am, did not get under way until three hours later when the first band Sugar Lips & Friends crossed the judging point at D’ Colosseum Mall with its presentation Level Up 2024.
Accompanied by a music truck, the band’s revellers, dressed in pink, neon green and yellow jerseys, jumped, pranced and wined along Milford Road into Crown Point’s commercial hub.
Sugar Lips & Friends was followed by two other small bands Moon Over Water’s Sin City and Bago Limers.
Veteran Soca artist Superblue (Austin Lyons), with microphone in hand, socialised with revellers in Bago Limers.
The vendors came out in full force. Patrons chose from pholourie, corn soup and fried wings to hot dogs, snow cones and canned alcoholic beverages.
But sales on some items were disappointing.
“I came out here early this morning (Monday) and I still have most of my stuff here,” a food vendor told Newsday.
Some spectators also complained about the turnout.
“I did not expect to see this kind of crowd,” one woman said.
“I should have stayed at home. My boyfriend will laugh me because he told me it was not going to be anything more than a blocko.”
Another woman said she knew that many people went to Trinidad for Carnival.
“I know of people who went since Friday into Saturday and they not coming back until Ash Wednesday.”
The woman wondered if Tobago should participate in the national festival outside of the October carnival.
Despite the turnout, police officers and soldiers were out in their numbers monitoring the proceedings.
Some kept watch at the intersection of Pigeon Point and Milford Roads while others walked in single file through the crowd. Several men were searched for illegal drugs and weapons.
Newsday caught up with head of the Tobago Division ACP Collis Hazel at D’ Colosseum.
He reported a safe J’Ouvert celebration.
“We have had no reports of any incident that was untoward. It meant that the execution of the strategies deployed by the police have been working and that all our masqueraders and our non-carnival activity are complying with the regulations that have been put out by the police in order to ensure that the safety and security of all are taken into consideration,” he said.
Hazel observed the crowd was significantly smaller when compared to the October carnival.
“I am certain that a lot of the residents have gone to Trinidad to participate. So there lies the question, whether we can manage two carnivals or we concentrate on our October carnival and allow this carnival that we go to Trinidad? It is a question to the organisers but the police are there to provide safety and security.”
Asked if the division’s success in keeping crime and anti-social behaviour at bay could be attributed to the small crowd, Hazel said, “I would not say that less masqueraders makes it easier. Masqueraders is not our problem.
“Persons who are disobedient to the law, those are our problem and therefore masqueraders are our friends. They are who bring the theatre and the arts alive and therefore we continue to respect them for what they are doing.”
Hazel said the traffic plan was also a success.
“Just imagine that we have not wrecked a vehicle so there is total compliance and therefore I really want to commend all who have been involved in this.”
He added, “We are proving to be a success factor that continues to concentrate on our carnival celebrations that we can safely say, based on the trajectory from our last carnival to now, that Tobago is being branded as the safest carnival.
“This is what we want to ensure takes place on this island. Safety must be our watchword and we must continue to brand this festivity in that way.”
J’Ouvert was stopped at around 10 am.