Tuesday, February 22, 2011

US Carnival Guide - Part 1

Buh wha de?! June hawse?!

Ah mean, my intention was to take a mini blogging break but no posts since June 2010 is outrageous.....even for me. But alas, now that the creative juices are flowing again, it's the ideal time of year to talk about something near and dear to my heart......Carnival.

Now those of you looking for a Trinidad Carnival how-to, I invite you to stop reading right about now because that's not what this post is about. Did we forget already? Or maybe I hadn't mentioned it before but for the time being, I am stuck in the States (mind yuh damn business) and I haven't seen a trini carnival in 9 years (yuh eh hear meh or wha? Doh ask). This post is for people like me who for one reason or the other, are stuck here, can't go home (yet) but still seem to be possessed by a carnival jumbie.

Whey yuh want we tuh party den?!

It is often said that imitation is just a subtle form of flattery. At home, Carnival is often referred to as the "Greatest Show on Earth" and as such, it has spawned a great number of mini carnivals across the globe patterned after our own. Outside of the Caribbean, no region is host to a greater number of mini Carnivals than the United States (great place to get stuck eh?). All you need to know now is where you need to be, and when you need to get there.

Please bear in mind that I won't be listing all of the US carnivals, only the more popular ones that occur on or near the east coast.

Atlanta Carnival
Dates: Memorial Weekend - May 27th - May 30th 2011

No, I am not being intentionally biased by mentioning Atlanta Carnival first simply because I live here. It just so happens that Atlanta's Carnival is the first major carnival to occur in any given year. Memorial weekend, which is always the last weekend in May, plays host to not one but two separate carnivals.

Back in 2005, several disgruntled band leaders split with the main carnival band authority and formed their own separate carnival in Decatur, a smaller City that lies east of Atlanta. Despite the discord, Atlanta has managed to attract its fair share of big name performers which include regulars like Iwer George, Bunji and Fay Ann, Benjai, Denise Belfon, Destra, Burning Flames among others as well as a staggering number of "small island" bands.

Washington DC Carnival
Dates: June 25th - 27th 2011

After Atlanta in late May, the next logical destination should always be DC carnival in late June. I haven't been to DC  in years but at the time, I had begun to get the feeling that this particular carnival was no longer worth my time. The fetes were shutting down by 2:00 am and if the fete didn't close at that time, their bars certainly did thus leaving you truly "tusty" whenever Machel decided to grace the stage (about 3 hours later). I'm not kidding when I say that the bars in these fetes closed down completely at 2; you couldn't even buy a bottle of water.I hear that things have improved much over the last 5 years and DC should now be back on your list of "not to be missed" US Caribbean carnivals.

You have to think of DC as more of a liming carnival; you run up there with a few of the boys (remember, take no sand to the beach), breeze through a few fetes and then show up bright and early Saturday morning for mud mas. Oh yeah....hell yeah!! DC has one of the best J'ouvert-like experiences outside of T&T. Sure you can go play pretty mas in one of the other bands but if you really want to have a good time, trust me, join the mud mas; it's not hard to all the way down to the last band in the parade (dodging all the clean clothes people running the other way)

Then it's all downhill from here...............

Houston Caribfest
Dates: 4th of July weekend (aka USA Independence Day) July 1st - July 4th 2011

Now to be honest, I've had my fair share of fun and good times at Houston Caribfest but to be honest, as a "big islander," I felt a little out of place. it's almost like a hurricane blew over the Lesser Antilles and dumped everyone in Houston, Texas. Houston has a crazy amount of "small islanders" which is cool and all but there's only so much jab jab music a brother can take. But I must give credit where credit is due, Caribfest also has a very damn good J'Ouvert and if you happen to be a wajang like me, a J'Ouvert can make a break a carnival experience.

You know what else can break a carnival experience? HEAT.......HOUSTON TEXAS IS HOT! When people are bathing with the Dasani instead of drinking it, you know you have a problem. I know what you're thinking......we're from the Caribbean, we could deal with heat. No bredren, this is not regular heat......this is the fire and brimstone that your pastors have been warning you about; this is the burning at the back of your skull when the wife vex with you!! No other island in the Caribbean is closer to the Equator that Trinidad is so trust me, when a trini says it's is damn hot.

There are quite a few more notables to mention so check me back next week.

To be continued................

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