Carnival Culture

Should we Gatekeep Carnival, or Step Up?

By Posted on 7min read64 views

I am well-rehearsed on the highs and lows of learning and navigating the nuances of a culture I have not been raised.  For almost four years, I have focused on the beauty of Caribbean Carnival and how it has positively impacted my life.  I tip-toed about discussing the negatives to tread carefully.  I feel that I have not been holding true to my self-proclaimed “Genuinfluencer” title.  

Embracing the “tread carefully” approach has left me but a shell of who I am as a person at my core, and does not allow me to advocate for other people’s needs in this Carnival space.  This blog is not an attack on anything or any specific person.  This long overdue thought piece aims to spark productive conversations… hopefully. 

This thought piece reflects my experiences and what I have learned in my journey—reading and listening.  Discussion panels and deep conversations in and outside of my DMs. This thought piece is also born from discussions with designers, production teams, section leaders, band owners, masqueraders worldwide, and silent leaders in the industry. My perspectives and experiences are not invalidated because I am African American. And so, I challenge all to buckle up and dig deeper.

Its just my culture.

This feeds back into the blog I wrote about enjoying the culture responsibly.  In 2017, a good friend said something that rocked me.  Mainly because she told me I was talking out of my ass in so many words.  From then on, I vowed to learn as much as possible.  I started asking people I associated with in person and inside chats.  I began to ask questions about why I saw certain things at Carnival and fetes, and the originations of many things I observed.

I was met with radio silence, or the phrase: “It’s just my culture.”  Frustrated, I embarked on a journey to learn on my own.

When I was introduced to Carnival, my sister told me things about Carnival that she learned from someone else that was West Indian.  My sister emphasized the fun and the sexuality of Carnival. My sister unintentionally transferred over a mentality and perception about the experience as something I needed to hide or even ask my then – husband to participate in.  And YES, she was encouraged to claim or fly a flag from another island country. But the reality is no one can blame her for what she told me.

It took me participating in Caribbean Carnival for about 3-4 years or so before I uncovered enough information about the significance of J’ouvert.  Before then, I heard everyone talk about it, but they couldn’t tell me what it was about other than it being much fun.  So, I never went.  I was purely a road masquerader.

One day, I learned about the Canboulay and got bits and pieces of information about how it all ties into Carnival.  J’ouvert is for the people.  Pretty mas is for the establishment. DEFIANCE, RESISTANCE. REBELLION.  It RESONATED.  I make it a point to incorporate it into my carnival experiences when my work schedule allows.  I am continuing to learn and grow as a “conscious” masquerader. But if I am being totally honest, it took a lot of effort to go out of my way to know what I know now, because those that I was surrounded by couldn’t lead me in the right direction.

If I was lost, so are many others. When it comes to Caribbean culture and carnival, google is really not our friend. So where do we turn to?

Outsourcing the ritual of Carnival.

There are a lot of false speculations behind this platform and how I have been blessed to enjoy Carnival as much as I have over the years.  I’ve read false rumors about “begging” for free costumes, taking opportunities from other content creators… you name it, I’ve heard it.  If I publish a sponsored post, I’m “profiting,” which is also not true.  But what IS TRUE is that China has probably made BILLIONS of dollars over decades because Caribbean Carnival is so heavily outsourced.

Why aren’t we maintaining that same energy tho?

Some carnival events are so HUGE that outsourcing must happen.  But the reality is that some of your favorite bands and sections have failed in the United States because of outsourcing.  When I first played mas in 2015, My section leader was the designer.  I remember going into the mas camp where panties were actively being sewn, bras assembled, and you could see band members doing feather work.  We still have mas on a smaller scale, but we now see many section leaders and band members who don’t sew, design, bend wire, or even know the sensation of a hot glue gun burn. Simply put: the ritual of creating mas is outsourced for convenience or due to lack of skill.

The demand for outsourcing increases as Carnival grows in popularity on any given day.  Where there may be opportunities for us to pick up the ritual of creating mas, the truth is the industry struggles to find new talented sewists, wire benders, featherers, and production teams. 

Let's discuss what we can do.

The other day I was surfing Instagram and stumbled upon an Instagram page.  Caribbean carnival has spread to Indonesia.  I kid you not: Caribbean Carnival will happen in Bali from September 23-28th this year.  Much to the chagrin of many, the popularity of Caribbean Carnival will spread to the farthest corners of the world.  The harsh truth is that you’ll never be able to gatekeep carnival and fetes.  But there are a few things we can do collectively to keep its message alive, and promote respectful participants of the culture:

Your invitation MUST come with education.

The truth is many people who follow me on social media are wholly aware of the damages of cultural appropriation.  It’s mainly discussed on a WIDE scale on TikTok.  You’re not going to stop your occasional culture vulture or the Instagram masquerader, but there are a lot more that want to know about the culture before they enter than you think.  People don’t know where to find the information, and when they ask questions, they don’t get what they need from their lines of questioning. “It’s just my culture” does not work. If you don’t understand parts of the culture or choose not to seek an answer to share,  all you are doing is promoting a lifestyle of the culture and nothing more.

Your invitation MUST come with patience.

I read much commentary about people getting irritated when asked questions or angry when someone doesn’t quite get it right.  In the earlier phases of AWM, I remember being attacked over saying “Caribbeans” and not “West Indians.”  We don’t know what we don’t know, and most people have no intention of walking into a space disrespectfully. Creating spaces where people are invited to learn, make mistakes, and grow is important.

We must accept people as they are.

Negative attitudes about non-West Indian flags or non-West Indian people at Carnival and fetes appear to be a United States problem.  People discuss openly that they should not bring their US flag.  Others are told to wear another flag for different reasons. But the truth is if you want people to treat flags as more than a piece of cloth, people also need to feel comfortable about representing themselves as they are when we come into those spaces. Like trauma, our passions and joy of the people that came before us is also transferred through our DNA.  For that reason, many will gravitate to it not understanding why (just like I did). If we don’t want to see anymore cringey interviews, we need to have spaces where people feel comfortable to come as they are and not hide it.

We need productive conversations.

I gain insight through productive and sometimes outright painful discussions in my DMs, but they are necessary for personal growth.  But it seems as if everyone prefers to have these discussions quietly.  I have had insightful talks with other content creators, which resulted in an idea for us all to participate in discussion panels, and they have declined.  We need to take these conversations out of the DMs and WhatsApp chats.

Embrace the ritual of creating mas.

There are so many things that happen before you hit a mas camp for costume collection.  One reason I love carnival so much is that I have been blessed with the opportunity to help with production.  I respect the art and love that goes into designing your favorite costume.  I have sewn, I have feathered. I have wrapped wire, and organized left and right feathers.  I have had to exercise creativity in odd situations. I have distributed costumes and burned my hands on a hot glue gun.

The truth is that many of us don’t want to dedicate our time to designing, sewing, or wire bending.  Many say they’ve been playing mas “from young” but wouldn’t dare step inside a hot mas camp to help.  Until we get more people involved in mas outside the parade, billions of dollars will continue to be outsourced elsewhere.

Parting thoughts.

Carnival has saved my life and served as a space for healing, which is why I am passionate about sharing what I have learned with others.  I don’t want others coming into this cultural experience like I once did: COMPLETELY BLIND AND WRONG.

Unfortunately, Carnival does not look remotely like it was when I started.  While we may not be able to change its evolution, we can collectively unite to keep its profound meaning and history alive.

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Caribbean carnival platforms to follow

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AWM’s platform is going on its fourth year in 2022! But guess what?

  • There are many people that’s been doing this way longer than I.
  • I don’t know it all.
  • There’s a good chance I haven’t gone to your carnival of interest.
  • I’m NOT the biggest fete person.

This platform is based on my experiences and perspectives of Caribbean Carnival as an African American.  I WANT YOU to check out the other content creators! Especially those of West-Indian descent.  Check below for a list of notable content creators and platforms you should follow/use to learn about Caribbean culture and experience Caribbean carnival from different lenses.

Caribbean Carnival content creators

Crista aka Bahamianista. Photo Credit Bahamainista.com

Tingz Nice

In my eyes, Sha is the OG Carnival mentor.  I remember watching her YouTube videos as I got ready for my first carnival experience.  Her YouTube videos about Carnival still ring relevant! She runs a podcast, and I’ve purchased several pairs of her earrings.

Blackie97

The go-to for all things soca music.  He will keep you abreast of all the latest releases, so you are prepared to revel in the familiarity of the tunes. Blackie also covers the goings-on at fetes and has excellent content about fete etiquette.  If you want to learn how to gracefully solicit a w(h)ine without getting curved, this is the guy to watch.

Bahamianista

Crista is a lifestyle, fitness, and travel influencer who has probably done most Caribbean Carnival events.  She was my go-to source for Carnival events I was unfamiliar with.  Many tips I have shared have been learned from her. 

OHG Choice

Also known as OHGVibe on YouTube, he is known for covering Carnival’s good, bad, and ugly.  He has pivoted into a skincare niche, but as outside opens up, I expect him to produce amazing content, especially for St. Lucia Carnival 2022 with Xuvo.

Carnivalbae

Headed to Caribana this year? Carnivalbae is carnival influencer and freelance model, she posts weekly tips to get you prepared.  Check her out.

More Caribbean Carnival creators...

Caribbean Carnival content creator
Simone aka everytingsimsimma. Photo: Travel Noire

EverytingSimSimma

I love Simone and her food porn. Also represents our curvy girls that play mas and has been featured on Travel Noire! Simone is super talented with photography and evokes serious envy with her footage of drone flights over St. Kitts.

Fluffy Carnival Gyal

I love her because she openly takes on difficult topics as it pertains to Caribbean Carnival and culture.  Also gives a plus-size masquerader perspective.

Strictly Soca

Runs an entertainment website dedicated to all things Soca and Caribbean carnival. I also love that they capture about Carnival highlights ALL body types.

Mickisha 868

I love her most for her makeup tips and ideas! She has a wide variety of content shared on her YouTube channel, including skin care, natural hair care, travel and more. She does a lot of Carnival makeup tips and looks, and also covers all things carnival.

Carnival forums, directories, and apps

CarniPass

CarniPass was also known as Feters Lifestyle but has since pivoted into a Social Networking Platform and Carnival Guide.  Be sure to head over to their website and download their app while you’re at it.

SoloMas App

It’s true that when you play mas, you will never be alone. Solo masquerader? Looking for a travel/fete buddy? Check out the SoloMas App.

My Carnival Match

Your Caribbean carnival directory! Search for carnival-related services (hair and makeup, etc), and they even have a forum where you can chat it up with others in the Carnival community.  Need to buy or sell fete tickets or a costume? They got you covered.

Initiatives

Know Your Caribbean

I just love this page.  Fiona has expanded my mind in unimaginable ways and has encouraged me to do a lot of my own research.  Learning about Caribbean culture and the roots of Carnival will also help you deeply connect to the experience and perhaps make you love it as much as I do.

CarniCycle

Caribbean Carnival is an incredible experience, but it is not sustainable at all.  CarniCycle is working hard to reduce the carbon footprint of carnival and make it greener overall. Follow them, learn some green tips, and show support!

This list was in no particular order of importance, and will be refined as I discover other amazing creators and initiatives that resonate with the message of AWM’s mission statement.

. This platform aims to function as a branch of a tree, bringing you to Caribbean content creators to expand your mind and encourage you to get out there and play mas from an educated point of view. Besides, I can’t do this alone! I hope this list was helpful to you.  Be sure to share with others!

If there is someone I overlooked, please hit the comments below!

.

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Jamaica Carnival 2022: “Tough Luck.”

By Posted on 3min read44 views

Jamaica Carnival will take place July 10th this year and was announced with advanced notice of 103 days.  Check out my previous blog if you aren’t sure why this is such a big issue.

Before the announcement, there was open dissonance about when Carnival in Jamaica should happen.  The band leaders of Xodus and Bacchanal JA were full-court press to shoot for a July date.  Meanwhile, Xaymaca International advised it would be best to wait much later (possibly October). 

Jamaica Carnival in July benefits...Jamaica.

Carnival in Jamaica Xodus
Oh yes, this is definitely a life-long memory. But when are you going to turn your comments back on?

July 10th date for Jamaica Carnival 2022 is problematic to masqueraders for two main reasons:

  • Masqueraders get an advance notice just shy of three months amid the Russia/Ukraine conflict and seriously inflated gas prices. In other words, plane ticket prices are insanely high, and many (myself included) have already committed to other events. To clarify, there is little-to-no time to prepare for overseas travel.  Is it fair to cancel my St Lucia plans after paying for my accommodations and costume in full? 
  • July is one of the busiest carnival months and will be held despite other scheduled Carnival events: St. Vincent, Cayman Islands, and Saint Lucia. Hosting the carnival event potentially pulls revenue opportunities from those sister Island countries who also felt the impact of COVID-19, but waited in turn with more time to prepare.

One might ask: Why are they in such a rush?  While I can’t speak for the people who have made this decision, I would postulate that the revenue is needed.  In other words: Their pockets are light, and their bellies are empty. COVID-19 has crippled the tourism and entertainment industry for more than two years, so people are eager to have their events at the expense of thousands of masqueraders.

 

What the bands are doing...so far.

Jamaica Carnival Xodus Customer Service
It was an "us" problem until outside opened. Now it's all on "you" as a patron.

Bacchanal JA has not made a statement on how or if they will support those who cannot (or don’t want to) attend.  As for Xodus, I received a screenshot stating they will not honor refund requests nor roll over anyone’s money to the following year.  Due to the nature of the situation, the likelihood of most people selling their costumes successfully is low.  To make things worse, expect a 5% restocking fee if you can sell it. Honestly, I think they can’t wait to resell those costumes themselves to fatten their pockets.

Jamaica Carnival

"Hey masquerader, take this 'L' for us."

My personal experience with Xodus left a lot to be desired.

Even if I could make Jamaica Carnival, I wouldn’t want to jump with them at all.  I cannot get over the betrayal.

The debacle with Xodus is especially hurtful to the masqueraders who put faith in the team. For example, consumers were asked for flexibility for two years. Nevertheless, that flexibility won’t be reciprocated.

From what I can see, Xaymaca is moving honorably.  Recognizing the strain on their masqueraders and the potential impact on the sister countries, they put out a statement that they will be sitting this year out.  They have not stated what they intend to do with masqueraders requesting refunds.

In conclusion, the drama with Jamaica Carnival 2022 has left a bitter taste in my mouth. What’s the most disturbing about this whole ordeal is that Xodus has demonstrated they are willing to chess-piece their patrons into eating the risk of their business.   While I won’t be attending this year, I feel so slighted by this whole situation that I wonder if I’ll ever consider going to Jamaica Carnival.  But if I do, you’re going to see with me with Xaymaca hands down.

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Jamaica Carnival 2022: Seriously?!

By Posted on 3min read48 views

Today was like any other Saturday until I got an Eventbrite notice that my beloved Carnival Glam Hub released tickets to service JAMAICA CARNIVAL 2022 this coming July.  I immediately began to boil.  

I registered to play mas with Xodus Carnival in November 2019.  My costume was paid in full shortly after Trinidad carnival.  Like many other masqueraders, I put my faith in this band and was seriously let down. In other words, I got screwed.

While the government has yet to officially announce Jamaica Carnival 2022, private investors are sending emails to customers and making plans.

But what of the bands?

Deleted email and IG accounts

Bacchanal Jamaica, Xamayca International, and Xodus were three bands that launched for Carnival 2020.  Bacchanal Jamaica’s IG account was either disabled or deleted.  Xamayca International has since put on events without even addressing the elephant in the room.  As for Xodus carnival, their email is no longer working, the payment portal no longer exists, and the comments have been shut off on their Instagram for the longest time.

Jamaica Carnival in July

Jamaica has had Carnival every April.  When they postponed (three times), they pushed to October.  Why JULY?!

I am trying to look at it from the perspective of an entire industry crippled by the pandemic. Of course they would try to have the event as soon as possible. The revenue is needed.  But of all the months, Jamaica Carnival 2022 is moving to happen during one of the busiest months of the carnival season.  Saint Lucia, the Cayman Islands, and St. Vincent are all set to have Carnival this that month.  To top that, those island countries have had more time to coordinate, and Jamaica Carnival screams a rush job.

As for me? I plan to go to Saint Lucia this year, so there is no way I would go to Jamaica. Therein lies my next problem.

Show me the money... or my costume.

Xodus Jamaica Carnival Costume
This was my costume for Jamaica Carnival 2020.

Many angry masqueraders are still waiting for their money.  As for me, All I had asked was to make arrangements for me to at least have my costume.  I have requested this concession with offers to pay for shipping.  The end result? No responses to my emails and lies to the bank during the dispute.

I ask the bands:

What concessions do you intend to provide to masqueraders who cannot make this July date?

What concessions do you intend to provide to masqueraders who are so jaded by the lack of communication and pure thievery that they NO LONGER WANT TO GO?

My empathy tank is on E.

It’s been more than two years since I registered for Jamaica Carnival, and I understand that maybe things weren’t done the right way out of the need to fend for self in such an uncertain time.  But I have since run out of empathy.

Even if I had the white space to go to Jamaica carnival, the behavior of the bands left a lot to be desired.  I wonder how the behavior of a few will affect tourism to Jamaica as a whole.  Is Jamaica Carnival dead to rights? That leaves a lot to be seen.

It will be interesting to see if Jamaica Carnival 2022 takes place.  I will be watching to see how these bands (if they return) will address the concerns of the masqueraders that registered with them so long ago.

Because telling customers to sell their costumes or promising to roll over their payments to another year is ABSO-FUCKING-LUTELY unacceptable.

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Band Launches: Why you should attend.

By Posted on 4min read68 views

All about band launches!

You’ve decided to take the plunge and participate in Caribbean carnival for the first time. Congratulations! After you’ve figured out your budget, it’s time to check out a band launch and view some costumes with a potential mas band (or two, three, four…)

Band launches kick off the carnival season for the upcoming event.  Some carnival band associations will allow you to see all the Mas band costumes in one night, while some carnival Mas bands may opt to display their costumes on dates separate from other bands.  I highly encourage all masqueraders to attend band launches, if possible.  Of course, COVID-19 is still a thing, and it’s not possible to make every possible band launch.  I will talk to you about live and virtual launches, what to expect, and the pros and cons of each.

If you are coming to this website for the first time, check out my blog on how to start with carnival. 

Attending a live band launch.

Carnival Band Launch Photos of costumes
band launch photo for Guyana carnival 2018. Photo credit: Guyana Times.

Attending a band launch for carnival is a lot of fun, and I strongly recommend you attend if you can.  There is typically a fee to get into the band launch.  Food, drinks, and entertainment (music) are provided to get everyone excited to see the costumes.

I like to attend carnival band launches, because you can see the colors of the costume live and how it flows when worn.  Photos do not always do this justice, and many times Photoshop (color-grading) can alter the presentation of the costume.  This is a chance to see if the costume is realistic for wear.  Simply put: Just because it’s pretty doesn’t mean it’s meant to move in for several hours, and not all coochies are made the same (You will understand what I am talking about when you start viewing costumes).

Mas bands work hard on their presentation of costumes. The models spend hours practicing, and sometimes choreography may be involved, so chances are you are in for a great show.  

A live band launch will also give you an overall “vibe” of the band.  Does your energy match their energy?  Is this presentation something that you want to feel part of? Feel the energy of the loyal masqueraders in attendance (trust you will tell). Are you energetically gravitating toward this band and its masqueraders?

You can also attend a live carnival band launch virtually. Nowadays, many mas bands will have a live event that you can attend, and they will broadcast it over YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or even some television stations.  This is definitely a cost-effective way to view the band launch, especially if the event is happening out of state or out of the country.

Pros:  

  • You can visualize the movement of the costume.
  • You will appreciate the true colors of the costume.
  • You can determine if the costume is wearable for you.
  • You will feel the overall vibe of the band.

Cons:

  • You likely won’t see all options of a potential costume (high waist panty, boy short, full coverage).
  • In my experience, band launches hardly start on time.  This irks my military soul.  Prepare your mind to see the costumes at the last possible minute (near the end of the event).
  • You can’t attend ALL the live band launches, and you’re at a disadvantage waiting to see pictures before you decide to register (especially if the band is popular).  Sometimes bands will register at the event after the costumes are displayed. YES, I have seen costumes sold-out at a live band launch before it even goes on the website.  This is where pre-registration might be your friend.  For more information on pre-registration, click here.
Photo from band launch

Pre-recorded (virtual) band launches.

Mas bands have found a pre-recorded band launch to be more cost effective.  They won’t have to pay for a venue, the licenses to hold the events and serve alcohol, security, food, and all the other logistics that come with a live band launch.  But thanks to COVID and the need for social distancing, it makes more sense.  

The bands hire the necessary people to put together a production to display the costumes, and a videographer helps put it all together.  In most cases, these presentations are no longer than three minutes.  Below you will find my absolute favorite virtual launch from Mascots International for Miami Carnvival 2021.

Pros:  

  • You can watch the band launch from the comfort of your own home whenever you want.
  • You can see all the virtual pre-recorded launches at your fingertips.
  • You will view the models moving in the costume.
  • You can determine if the costume is wearable for you.

Cons:

  • There is a chance you won’t see all options of a potential costume (high waist panty, boy short, full coverage).
  • Bloopers and other difficulties are edited out.  If the model was having a hard time wearing the costume, you won’t know any of it.
  • Pre-recorded band launches won’t necessarily give you a genuine “vibe” of the band.
  • Mas band often forget to show the back of the costume.  This is why I prefer to attend a live event, because I can see the carnival costume in its entirety.  
Below is a virtual band launch release from We Kinda Ting.  This band launch is for Atlanta-Dekalb Carnival 2022.  For more information about Atlanta-Dekalb Carnival, click here.

I love band launch season! It gets me so excited for carnival.  I enjoy the process of viewing the costumes the mas bands have to offer and making my decision.  I hope this helps you appreciate the value of band launches.  If you choose to attend a live launch, have fun!

See you on the road,

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Caribbean Carnival: How to get started.

By Posted on 6min read72 views

This blog is specifically for carnival newbies.

So you have seen the pictures and videos of carnival, and you have decided it’s something you’re not going to miss in 2022/2023.  First off, congratulations!  Second, Carnival is TRULY FOR EVERYONE, so get that out of your mind right now! 

The decision to participate in Caribbean carnival for the first time is thrilling, but you might experience a little stress because you have so many questions.  The purpose of this blog is to get you started on a journey that is almost certain to be the first of many carnival experiences in your life.  Let’s begin!

Step 1: Do your homework on Caribbean carnival.

Doing Homework about Carnival
Its important to know a little bit about Carnival. Image Credit: Polina Tankilevitch

Understanding what Caribbean carnival is about is important.  If you are not of West-Indian descent, you might be having discussions about your carnival experiences with your friends, family, that are not either.  To spread a positive message and help demystify many misunderstandings, it’s important that you engage in discussions about carnival from an educated perspective.  At the end of the day, people will form their own opinions, but not understanding the history of carnival and why people play mas will support the formation of those negative perceptions and opinions.  If you’re going to play Mas, help elevate the cultural experience in a positive light.  

For a few years, I was definitely failing on this.  Read about my journey here.

 A couple great resources about Caribbean culture and carnival include:

Take the time to learn about the music!  Be sure to check out The Soca Influencer on Instagram. Not only is he funny, but he will also expose you to Soca and Calypso music from all the different island countries.

Learn how to wine/whine! It is the signature form of dance for carnival.  Look up dance/fitness classes in your area or online that are themed “soca fitness”, or something similar.  One fantastic online fitness resource is Socanomics.  Be sure to let them know AWM sent you!  Of course, you don’t have to wine/whine on the road the whole time.  Carnival is about freedom of expression afterall.

Step 2: Choose your carnival crew wisely.

Carnival Crew Group Travel
Carnival Crew at Miami Carnival 2021. Image Credit: Krave the Band.

Who you choose to go with to carnival can seriously make or break your experience.  If you choose to go alone, that is fine too.  As a matter of fact, if the only thing that is holding you back from participating is a crew, it’s okay to go alone.  The theory is: You will never play Mas alone, and it is true. I currently have friendships developed when I met them on the road at carnival.

While it is not a deal breaker, I would encourage you to go your first carnival with an experienced masquerader.  They will teach you the tips and tricks that you can carry on with your future experiences.  Putting on a costume, purchasing tickets, what to wear and bring are super important.  An experienced masquerader will bring you wealth of knowledge and lower your stress levels.

People you DONT want in your crew: Off and on friendships, patterns of financial instability, judgemental people, and people that cannot hold their alcohol. If you are couple’d up and want to go with your significant other, read this blog. These are a few characteristics to look for in potential road partners, and I will elaborate later in a blog on this.

Step 3: Budget your carnival experience.

Budgeting for Carnival
Put your budget together before you even start looking at costumes!

Before we even THINK about where to have your first carnival experience, you should consider your budget.  The budget includes: transportation, fete tickets, outfits, your carnival costume, and other necessities that you might need.  By all means, I would love everyone to go overseas for carnival, but if you can’t afford it, it’s totally okay!  There are several carnival events happening in the United States.  Don’t let anyone put you down for not experiencing Caribbean carnival in the island countries.  There’s nothing wrong with starting in the states. Honestly, I think it’s very wise to start small.  For a list of 2022 carnival events overseas and in the US, please click here.

Step 4: Find a list of carnival bands for your event. Do your homework.

Carnival Bands Atlanta-Dekalb Carnival
List of bands participating in Atlanta-Dekalb Carnival.

Once you have checked the carnival calendar and decided where you’d like to attend, the next step is to view the website and check out the list of bands. If you are starting your research before the band launch, bear in mind that the carnival mas bands will likely have costumes from the previous event on display.  But you can at least get a feel of what their costumes generally look like, what they offer with the carnival experience, and their price points.

Government entities and band associations will have a list of the participating bands (in most cases).  Once you have reviewed the list of carnival bands, start doing your own personal research. 

Review their websites, and their social media platforms.  I strongly recommend you find groups (through Facebook or WhatsApp) to get varying opinions on certain bands. You can even use Google to find reviews and blog entries from other content creators.  If you know other experienced masqueraders, ask their opinions. Use the information you’ve obtained to create a short list of band launches you would like to attend. You will find that with a little digging, you may cross a band off your list before the band launch even happens.  

Step 5: Attend the band launches.

Atlanta carnival 2022 Band launch flyer
Band launch announcement for Atlanta carnival 2022.

The carnival mas bands will launch either virtually or in person.  A virtual launch is definitely convenient, but observing how well or easy the model can wear a costume is also important.  Either way, get a feel of the overall presentation of the costumes and figure out if the vibe the bands are giving is for you.  I would recommend you give all the other bands a look before making your decision. But in some cases, that may be hard, because popular bands sell out quickly.  If you are interested in looking at the band launch dates for Atlanta and Atlanta-Dekalb carnival, click here.

Step 6: Scrutinize bang for buck.

Caribbean carnival not cheap! With any huge purchase, do a price analysis before you make a decision.

A warning to carnival newbies: Do not get stuck on the costume.  When registering to play Mas, you have to understand that bands offer more than a costume: They offer an entire carnival experience.  For more about this, check out my blog here.

Besides, what sense would it make to drop a lot of money on a costume, but get shorthanded on the frills?  Carnival Mas bands offer alcohol, meals, goody bags, photographers, roving security, and sometimes j’ouvert is included.  It’s important to make a price comparison with these bands.  Sometimes it’s better to go with a different carnival band, even if they are not offering your favorite costume.

Step 7: Take the leap and register!

Wire bra registration carnival costume with wire bra
Example of a registration portal online.

Once you’ve made your decision, it’s time to register!  Registration includes a deposit on your costume (up to 50%).  You will provide your personal information, such as name, address, etc., along with your sizes.  My recommendation to you is to order your current size, not your goal size.  

A new trend I am currently seeing are carnival mas bands requiring full payment for your feather add-ons. This may push your initial deposit beyond 50%.

Once you place your deposit for registration, understand your funds are non-refundable, and sometimes they may not accept changes to your order.

You will be given a specific date to complete your payments.  Understand that your carnival costume must be paid in full before your pickup date.

Step 8: Get excited and get ready!

Excited for Caribbean Carnival
Photo Credit: Dallas Carnival Website

Time to plan your travel logistics, acquire fete tickets and outfits,  get your carnival accessories and work on endurance!  Prepare your mind and body for what’s going to be an amazing experience.  For a list on must-haves, check here.

And be sure to continue to check this website for more tips and information. I also have a collection of informational videos on my IGTV and YouTube.

I can’t wait to see you on the road!

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