Year: 90s and 2000s
Place: Both St. Thomas and Tortola
I just got through listening to the full version of the new Spectrum Band song – “Cyan Mash Up Carnival”. Carnival mas in the Virgin Islands is in full swing and so is the music behind it. IrMaria who??
I remember growing up in the Virgin Islands when Carnival was everything in the month of April (St. Thomas) and August (Tortola). From the food fairs to the parades and everything in between was nice.
What I loved the most?! There was no curfew!! (Well maybe just an extended one.) And that was because just as much as you were going out, so were your parents and they were staying out just as late. Don’t talk about jouvert morning. Who beat who home?? LOL!!
Culture was and is always a big part of the carnival. From the traditional wear and history showcased by the pageantry contestants to the beautiful costumes and colors that represent something new and magical every year down the parade route.
Prince and Princess and Queen shows were always the ones where everybody repped the contestants from their schools. The rivalry between the schools was a big deal every year. Everybody wanted their school to be the best and have the top performer at end of the night. They repped from the shirts with the contestants they were rooting for, to the school colors worn on the pageant show night.
Even this year (2018), I’m told that the Queen title went to a student from Ivanna Eudora Kean High School. The last time they won the crown was over 19 years ago. WOW. My mom told me there was an alumni who finished school over 20 years ago, but he still went to the barber and got a Devil-Ray faded into his head. YEA. The rivalry is that serious.
(UPDATE: Just watched a video on Facebook where the new Carnival Queen made a grand entrance at school. She was flown in by helicopter and escorted across campus by the school color guards and onlooking fans and peers cheering. When I tell you the rivalry is serious!! I may be a loyal Chickenhawk (Charlotte Amalie High School Alum) but I am glad they got this win.)
Congrats to all the pageantry winners!!
Another great thing about carnival back in my day was the music. Back then we had the Awesome Jam Band and the lyrical stylings of Nick “Daddy” Friday (God rest his soul)!! I think there is still some version of them around today, but no one can touch the classics. Some rhythms alone had people wilding out and whining waistlines like nobody’s business.
I remember one carnival season, my cousin say she find herself trying to teach us how to ‘whine’ to calypso music. We could already dance, but she felt like she was the master of the movement, so we watched on. One of my favorite/funniest memories with her, God rest her soul.
Then, there was jouvert (which I explained previously) during the last week leading up to the parade. I always loved Tortola jouvert over St. Thomas though. Aside from the fact that they had 3 jouverts (once upon a time), it was always more fun to be over there during the Carnival season.
Keeping in line with the culture, our cuisine is represented by flavors that have been passed down from generation to generation at the food fair. My favorite food fair treat was of course the saltfish cakes that I told you guys about in my previous post. But I also loved the stews – tamarind and cherry – and of course the tarts, guava being my favorite.
That’s another thing I loved about home during Carnival season. There was always something ‘traditional’ to eat. From the chicken leg and journey cakes to the saltfish and dumplings served by the different booths set up in the Carnival Village. Carnival season was the time to eat up and enjoy all the surrounding cultures.
Carnival in the US
Today, there are so many different states that have their own version of Carnival at different times of the year. Here in Georgia, Memorial Weekend is the time when we celebrate Atlanta Carnival.
I don’t like the fact that the major event, the parade of troupes, has been split into two separate affairs. Each year it divides us, rather than bringing us together as one people. But, I always enjoy the Carnival events and I take my daughter every year so that she can get a small glimpse of what I grew up with in April and August.
If you’re in the Virgin Islands for this Carnival 2018, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did back in my time. If not, what are you waiting for? Go to the USVI, BVI, or find where/when your local ‘Caribbean’ Carnival is held and enjoy the mas.
If we can still find the time to celebrate our culture, even after the devastation of two Category 4 hurricanes, so can you. As Spectrum Band say, deh “Cahn Mash Up Carnival”.
How many different carnivals have you been to? Which one do you think was the best? Share with me in the comments. It might be a place that I can add to my list of Carnivals to visit in the future.