I shared that my father passed away when I was 19. It was a turning point in my life. From then on, I promised to live my full life as a woman until I die (what I believe is full)! Several "live yo life" goals were set including attending as many carnivals as possible before my time was up! I LOVE carnival because beyond the spiritual ties, I feel like it is a celebration of and for women! Get in your pretty costume, do your pretty make-up, get in that warrior/goddess mode and move that body while on the road with hundreds, sometimes thousands of other beautiful women!
For those who don't know, carnival is a big event in South America, the Caribbean, Canada, and even in some places in Europe and the States. For most carnivals, there are different groups that jump (dance) and in different costumes (from fully clothed to nearly naked depending on where you are in the world). You can now expect to pay up to $1000 for a costume (I remember when costumes used to be in the $200s and $300s)! The costumes are always GORGEOUS. Carnival is a force, the only day you see so many women come together and celebrate life! Looking GORGEOUS! It's an army! And an experience everyone should experience once!
I should also note that alcohol is in abundance. There are drinking trucks (and bathroom trucks) driving on the road to provide the bacchanalists with services. For some, there are also trucks where you can redo your make-up or take a break if you're too tired of dancing. Carnival is magical.
When you purchase a costume, you also get a baggie of carnival goodies, all-inclusive drinks while on the road for carnival, lunch, and dinner when we usually end the parade at Mas Camp. There are now three different carnival bands in Jamaica compared to when I first started jumping there in 2010. In addition to Bacchanal Jamaica, there is now Xodus and Xaymaca! I have jumped with the first two and will be jumping with the latter in 2019, my 5th year overall jumping in Jamaica. All have awesome vibes! We are giving Trinidad a run for their money soon! I just hope Bacchanal Jamaica maintains the peace it has been for years (no violence whatsoever which has to do with the crowd).
Crop Over itself? The actual carnival? Best carnival I've ever been to in my life. Were you expecting me to say that? Hahaha! I'm not kidding though, it really was. I jumped with Blue Box Cart and had an unbelievable time. I would recommend them in a heartbeat! The vibes was too nice. The band was diversified. And not one person was stush. Everybody was enjoying themselves. It reminded me of when we go to ghetto parties. Never have to worry about vibes in the ghetto, my yute!
I did Soca Titans after Jouvert. It rained out when Machel came on but of COURSE that couldn't and didn't stop the show from ending lol.
I did jouvert! For the first time in my life I participated with a jouvert band, and they had costumes! For some reason I always thought jouvert was simply a street party where any and everyone comes in their regular clothes and get painted/mudded up. Well, that is what it is, but I didn't know there were more ways to go in! Nah mean?
In a specific taxi ride, I ended up accidentally meeting a known Soca artist called Statement. As I was walking back to the hotel intoxicated in my carnival costume from my friend's villa down the road, hardly any taxis were on site but there was one that happened to actually stop for me, it happened to be him. After exchanging basic background info and realizing we both have Boston ties, the discovery of who he was was made. He even played his music and sung for me because I didn't believe him. He reminded me that he was the same taxi guy wanting to give me a ride the day before when me and my friends were waiting for one, but couldn't because he already had somebody and proceeded down the road to hail another taxi for us. We still stay in contact until this day. Lol there were just way too many cool stories for me to take back to The States with me!
There are tons and tons of different events that go on during Crop Over, especially that final weekend. Soca Titans is a signature show for Crop Over that has been running for years. World-renowned and local Soca/Calypso artists battle to win the Soca Monarch. Jouvert started at 10PM and ended at 7am. I kid you not, I was on the road for that long. I couldn't even believe I was going to do that (despite the fact that I'm always up for an adventure). I had too many NEW experiences which is what I'm always after. I don't know how I can go anywhere else this specific weekend (Caribana in Toronto, Dream Weekend in Jamaica, and carnival in Antigua also occurs this weekend) knowing that Crop Over is happening. I try to never go to the same place twice but I KNOW I HAVE to go back. Obsessed. Whippppped!
USA + CANADA
MIAMI CARNIVAL WEEKEND WAS A BLAST!
First of all before I get into the weekend, I just want to make noteworthy that I feel like the whole New York state is there for the weekend. 2009 was my firs time going as a watcher, 2010 was my 2nd time going but my first time jumping and 2016 was my 2ndtime. I remember my older sister and I flew in from the east coast where we both met up with my cousin at the airport on Saturday. We should have been there from the Friday before but unfortunately we couldn't miss school! Picking up costumes, visiting family & friends, picking up pre-sold tickets are all a part of the process when first arriving to the city.
Miami J'ouvert is also worth a flight, usually held in September a month before. I flew down there for my little cousin's Sweet 16 and J'ouvert happened to be the same weekend. Even though it was inside unlike other j'ouverts, it was still fun!
The band that all of us played for is called Generation X (different costumes, but same band). Out of like a kajillion bands, we ended up taking home the award for 'Band of D Year" and "Best Costumes"! Out of all the carnivals I have participated in thus far, this has been the best COMPETITION I've done, but still lots of fun. Soon after carnival was done, we all went back to the hotel to knock out and catch up on sleep that we were missing terribly from partying for days.. Sooner than later, Columbus Day (Monday) came and it was time to chill -- South Beach style. I must say, it was quite an experience to watch gorgeous women shop in bikinis and heels -- only Miami! I'm in love, and now I know what to wear for Memorial Weekend lol! Aside from that, the food was great, the crazy waiters who poured shots in our mouths were awesome, and the margaritas and daiquiris were sneaky and conniving. We had a great time.
Labor Day Parade!
Jouvert is always the move the night before carnival!
There is no such thing as sleep Labor Day Weekend. After dancing, loosening up, and socializing with our friends. The city is indeed rocking. The band we played mas with this year was called Sesame Flyers, the biggest and baddest in New York City. The designer of our section of Sesame Flyers, "Erotica", did a fantastic job. Her name is Carlene and she is a gorgeous Trinidadian.
There's nothing much to really say besides the fact that we had a blast again playing with the Exotica Ladies 2 years in a row! We enjoyed ourselves with friends on the road! Great day on the Parkway for West Indians, minus the violence. The section we played for is apart of the biggest and best band of NYC, Sesame Flyers, taking the title this year by coming in 1st place!
Atlantic City, for example, is a fairly new carnival. It was 2013 I went. Easily, by far, the most disorganized carnival I've seen individuals put together. The carnival was supposed to be on the Boardwalk as the previous year, but the "mayor" called it off due to the dangerously hot weather at the time, in fear of major heat heaves and heat exhaustion. Therefore, we had to celebrate carnival at the location of where all the carnival parties kept that weekend took place. I will say, we did make the best of it and I actually did have fun. That's how I always ensure my attitude is in debbie-downer situations: positive. I went to a show with Shurwayne Winchester and even in the midst of the disorganization, he managed to shut that ish down. The people I met, unforgettable and good friends to this day, the trip turned out to be life-changing! With a more carefully planned out carnival and a new and improved board to carry that out, Atlantic City has potential. I'm glad I got to experience it in its prime, I will be there when it has reached its full growth too. A little bit of gambling can't hurt while there. It was a very fun time in Atlantic City overall, unforgettable!
So my new thing now for jampacked party weekends that occur concurrently is to participate in at least two of the festivities rather than just one. I simply don't think my fun should be limited to one place when there's just as much or probably more fun happening at the same damn time somewhere else. That's just not fair to us live-lifers, so I decided to to body Caribana and Dream Weekend in the same week. I personally cannot stand the fact that Dream/SPF Weekend (and other Independence Day party weekends) in Jamaica, Carnival in Toronto (Caribana), Carnival in Barbados (Crop Over), Carnival in Antigua, Drake's OVO concert in Toronto, and a carnival in one more place that I was told of but cannot recall, all occur the same year every year; just as Mardi Gras in NOLA, Trinidad Carnival and Carnival in Rio de Janeiro all take place the same time.I hardly have any pictures from Caribana because it was too crazy. I have to shed light on the love the city of Toronto has for carnival. It is even a televised event; you hear it on the radio and see it advertised everywhere throughout the city I love the fact that it is such a big deal. It's incredible. Before carnival time started, I explored the city by myself. I always have fun on solo adventures. Toronto is a dope city and I will be back to see what the nightlife is about, possibly catching an OVO concert would be a cherry with some mangoes on top.! Carnival festivities tired me out, including one massive water/paint jouvert party that I can't remember the name of, but we stampeded to get in with the rest of the crowd!
Caribana is a recommended carnival just because of its massive size, and because, to me, it is very cultural! I highly recommend jumping with Saldenah. They by far had the best costumes to me at the time (2012), and what I later found out, exceptional customer service. Their location is a giant warehouse filled with carnival vibes: food, Soca music, and where lots of costumes being made, They took home #1!
Bacchanal time again! This time the adventure was brought to Atlanta's 25th Annual Carnival, concurrent with Memorial Day Weekend. I have a few family members in ATL, and of course it is my first instinct to stay with family before seeking a hotel. Family presides everything, and it's more of an excuse for family time. So my girl, Terara, and I started off our fun Memorial Day Weekend by hitting Atlanta first. If it's not Vegas then it's down south, right? We linked up with my girl Amanda, also from Boston, when we went to go pick up our costumes from We Kinda Ting. Didn't know what to expect from a carnival I rarely heard anything about, but I was ready to embrace it with an open imagination as I always do. You know? Capitalize on FUN! Congratulations to We Kind Ting for taking up the Band of The Year title again!
The hospitality in ATL was amazing. My aunts were amazing.
Wukking up was apart of carnival prep in the house, masqueraders and non-masquerdaers! When it was time to hit the road, I realized Atlanta's carnival starts off on de road and ends off at a stadium, similar to Miami's!
"Gyal bam bam badder dan di taliban!" ~Olatunji
Of course I must find the dancehall.
I do recommend hitting up ATL for their carnival!
I jumped with a wonderful small band called Solitaire Carnival Band. Baltimore is a sweet little carnival embraced by the locals, and a growing carnival to look out for. Just like most carnivals, there are fetes, parties, and lots of other things to do carnival weekend. The city itself is enjoyable with great restaurants and a good nightlife scene. I would totally do this carnival again!