Carnival Tips

Carnival costumes: Hiring a designer.

By Posted on 3min read58 views

There are a few reasons why someone may wish to hire a designer for a carnival costume.  A common trend among avid Caribbean carnival-goers is for birthday and maternity shoots.  

Many people will look to a designer if there is a section they want to be in, but feather or bodywear options aren’t available. In those cases, people will purchase the backline bodywear and go to a designer for the frills.

As for me, I have commissioned some designers to shoot for carnival content and personalize a costume I bought for the road. I will share how I commission a designer and leave you some tips. 

To read about my carnival must-haves, click here.

Contacting a designer

Carnival costumes
This was a commissioned design by Marlon Smart.

Many carnival costume designers take custom work for hire.  Bear in mind their availability depends on what other obligations they have going on throughout the year, and for many, it’s a second job.  With many COVID restrictions finally lifting, all I can say is that your designer is likely HELLA busy.  It’s not to say they won’t be available for hire, but you will need to think very far ahead about when you would like to receive your costume.  

I have been successful by connecting on Instagram or by email. If you contact them without a response, give it a few days before trying again.

If a designer accepts your inquiry, it’s essential to be clear about what you are asking for. This cannot be undone once the materials are purchased, and the costume is made according to your request.

Pay them their worth, no haggling.

monday wear
This Monday wear design was commissioned from Chez Zen Mas.

DO NOT.  I MEAN. DO NOT. HAGGLE THEIR PRICE. 

In 2020, I paid about $350 for Monday wear.  In 2019 I paid about $650 for a large headpiece.  I have spent $850 and $1250 for a complete carnival costume design.  Their work and time are precious. Designers take their time and space for an individual commission when their time and efforts can be focused elsewhere.  Please respect it and don’t contact these designers unless you are serious and ready to pay them for their time. 

Always make sure the designer provides you with an invoice.  Review the invoice in its entirety; if something is missing, make sure it is corrected before remitting payment.

I will always encourage you to make your payments through means that can be traced. This includes PayPal, debit, and credit cards.  Companies such as Venmo and cashapp will dispute the validity of a transaction and cannot do much for you if you do not receive your goods.

Set reasonable expectations.

American Wines Matter Carnival Costume
This costume was commissioned by Stronjeh.

I do not recommend you hire a designer for a carnival costume if your delivery window is tight.  I recommend hiring a designer with their timeline in mind and adding a cushion of a few weeks before you need the product.  Some designers can do it all (wire bending, sewing, featherwork), and some cannot.  In most cases, you won’t know their abilities until there is a delay. For example, I have personal orders delayed because the wire-bender had not finished their part of the job. Just know that when people have to rely on others to make magic happen, it increases the likelihood of delays.

You will be expected to pay to ship your costume in most cases.  Shipping costs are contingent upon the origination, weight, and dimension of a box.  If you are ordering a costume with large pieces, you may find that sending it via air cargo to pick it up at an airport may be more cost-effective.

Execute good judgment.

Hiring a costume designer is a simple process, but I hope the tidbits I leave you with help.

Word of mouth is key when choosing a carnival costume designer. In my experience, there are some I will encourage you to work with and some I won’t work with again. 

Below is a list of designers on my radar that I am aware of taking commissions (in no particular order).  Those who are annotated with are those I have worked with and recommend you give a try:

DTZ Designs

WiredChic **

Dana Leigh **

Designed by Marlon Smart **

Stronjeh International**

Chezzen Mas 

Ginger Wire Bras

Premiere Mas Designs

 

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Carnival newbie tip: Thank your carnival veteran.

By Posted on 4min read52 views

Dear carnival newbie, If you are blessed to have a carnival veteran take you on your first carnival experience, they deserve ALL THE FLOWERS.  I have taken a few people out on their first experience, and it came with some challenges and lessons learned for the baby masquerader and me.  

Veteran masqueraders do this out of love of Carnival and the desire to see others enjoy it.  It fills my heart to watch a newbie’s eyes widen and witness the transformation that occurs with the rhythms coming from the truck and the infectious joy in the atmosphere.  It is heartwarming when they say, “I now understand why you love this so much.”

But it’s also very tiring.  And I have been in situations where I was left to feel seriously unappreciated.  So I will share what I go through as a veteran in hopes that you understand how hefty the task can be.

We are your teacher and mentor.

carnival newbie mentor pic
Side note, I miss this hair.

A great mentor will teach you what Carnival is about and why we play mas.  I have spent countless hours sending links for carnival newbies to read. I have fielded questions and demystified many misunderstandings. I have often helped newbies pick their costumes, make recommendations on what to pack, wear, and recommend products I feel would work for them. I have even given recommendations on footwear and also functioned as a personal fashion consultant, while still having to organize myself.  Although it is definitely easier to me as a veteran, it is also time-consuming.

We are your travel agent and concierge.

The experienced carnival-goer typically coordinates lodging and a car rental.  They give the heads up on which fete tickets to buy, and recommend which band to register with. They usually find the makeup artist for you. The experienced masquerader is likely the one who gets in town first, collecting a handful of carnival costumes to return to the hotel.  They go through every package on your behalf, making sure nothing is missing, you got everything you paid for, and raise hell on your behalf when you don’t.  Getting one costume in a bag with feathers is a task in itself.  Pay special props to the veteran willing to scoop up several in one trip.

Sometimes we are your seamstress.

carnival newbie tips
Carnival vets have learned to be innovative with costume repairs and hacks. Click this photo to learn about how I make my pasties.

Like a good carnival newbie, you packed a masquerader kit.  While a glue gun is self-explanatory, you haven’t the slightest idea how to work a needle and thread. We got you. I remember one night staying up to fix a costume while my crew slept, even rearranging bad feather work.  I did this because it was her first time, and I wanted her to feel her best and have the best possible experience.

Many new masqueraders won’t understand how to bend the wire to shape a headpiece, backpack, or wire bra.  Veterans led the way, showing you how to do all this and put on your costume.

Carnival vets put you first.

If you are a carnival newbie, getting ready for the day can be stressful.  Sometimes we help you get dressed first, or dress early so that we can help.  We will remind you to put some sunscreen on, drink water, and eat breakfast when you are nervous.  We will provide you with time hacks, know when the roads are closing, and have mapped out the best route to get to the parade. Many times we function as your photographer. 

While we are on the road, we will watch over you while having our fun and check in to ensure that all is going well for you. We make sure you eat, drink, and sometimes function as a security guard when you don’t know how to handle a stormer or politely curve a w(h)ine.

Supporting your carnival mentor.

Taking a carnival newbie under your wings can be daunting, but here are some things that you can do to reciprocate support:

  1. Follow their instructions, and trust there is a reason behind everything. 
  2. Be patient.  Sometimes our nerves are running high the morning of right along with you. 
  3. Pay attention. When it’s time to get on the road, know that what is taught should not have to be taught again.  Expect to do what is shown for yourself later. For example, if your leg piece falls, you can fix it yourself. 
  4. Remember that while your mentor is there for you, many things cannot be controlled.  In other words, costume distribution, road experience, food, and drinks are up to the band.  We would never intentionally lead you into a lackluster experience. Save your frustrations for the band, and don’t take it out on your mentor.

In conclusion, guiding the carnival newbie into their first experience is a labor of love.  Have you thanked your carnival mentor lately? Be sure to send them your love and appreciation. I would even recommend treating them to a few drinks or a meal.  It’s a lot of work!

To learn about my must-have items as a masquerader, click here.

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Group travel tip: Assemble your crew wisely.

By Posted on 3min read85 views

Many people believe the first step in preparing for Caribbean carnival is registration. With experience, you will find that most people will assemble their crew and prepare for group travel before the band launches even occur.  

Choosing good road partners is just as important as choosing your band.  Choice of the band and your crew can make or break your carnival experience. 

It is essential to embrace that not all your friends/family are a good fit for this experience with you. Group travel can save money, but it’s not worth it if you have drama to go along with it. I would personally pay a little extra for peace and great vibes.

So let’s read on.

Finances in group travel

carnival group travel
Photo Credit: Pinterest.

The first thing I want you to look for in a road partner is financial signs. Carnival is an expensive experience, and if your potential road partner has demonstrated  they are not financially stable, anticipate financial instability will be realized during your trip. For example, suppose you have a friend constantly doing charge-backs, returning clothing, cancelling flights, or continually borrowing money. In that case, this is probably someone you do not want to take on the trip.  And if you do, mentally prepare for that individual to continue to do the same things they did on your journey.

People who demonstrate these signs of instability will not have the flexibility to promptly purchase fete tickets, flights, or book reservations. This type of person will likely buy everything at the last minute, making their financial strain worse because everything is more expensive. You can’t rely on splitting the cost of lodging with these types of people, because they may back out of the trip.

Behavior patterns and rocky relationships.

caribbean carnival group travel
Photo credit: The Toronto Star.

Secondly, think about how this potential will partner in public or in private with you. In other words, what is their history with you? Caribbean carnival is all about joy, happiness and is a stress-free, non-judgmental environment. But if your potential crew member consistently gets into confrontations or puts you in complex situations, this person will do it again at Carnival. Life tip: If you have a friend who has done unsavory things to others, they’re likely to do it to you.  Carnival is not the place you want to do this to you. For example, I know of a lady who had been friends with someone for numerous years who knew she had a pattern of stealing. They went on a trip anyway, and the girl stole her costume and wore it on the road after they got into an argument.

I would like you to think about the stability of your relationships when choosing partners for group travel. We all have been in these situations where we’ve had this off-and-on friendship with people that we would not walk away from. The cycle is festering issues, tolerance, blow-ups, and make-ups.   Rinse, recycle and repeat.  Although carnival is a healing experience, it will likely not heal your crappy relationships.  If you don’t want to deal with conflicts on your trip, leave them home.

Traveling in a group with heavy drinkers.

Caribbean Carnival group travel photo
Photo Credit: The Guardian.

In most carnival experiences, alcohol flows freely.  Be wary of a road partner who does not drink responsibly. Imagine struggling to get your drunk road partner home while in full costume carrying them and their feather backpack looking for an Uber.  I want no parts of it.  If you have a potential road partner known for not being able to temper their consumption, you might not want to bring them.

It’s essential to choose road partners that can match your energy levels or set expectations beforehand. I am an introvert, and by the time I cross the stage, I am spent and ready to return to my hotel. Many people are prepared to continue their fete for a while. I am not saying NOT bring someone that can’t match your energy.   Be prepared to either accommodate various energy levels or have a plan in place when one or the other wants to pump longer or turn in for the day.

 

Traveling in groups is a lot of fun, and everyone loves the classic carnival crew photo.  But it’s important to choose those with whom you will share your space and financial responsibilities.  I hope this helps you find this blog super helpful.  If you or you know someone who would like to travel solo, check out my post here.

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Going to Carnival solo | Solo travel

By Posted on 6min read79 views

Update May 7, 2022: The STEP program.

A follower asked me if I had any tips for people going to carnival solo, and I cannot believe I have never thought to address this topic. I AM A PRO AT SOLO TRAVEL.  Believe it or not, I have gone solo for most of my carnival jumps, including Trinidad.  Funny but serious, getting people together for a group trip should be an Olympic sport.   I would never scrap going anywhere just because everyone backed out. You only live once, and carnival invokes some severe FOMO.  I got the tips you need to get you mentally grounded and prepared if you consider solo travel.

Note: even if you are traveling with a group, many of these tips apply to you.  So read on!

Consider a travel concierge service.

travel concierge solo travel
Soca Islands saved me 5 days before my trip to Trinidad in 2020.

Many Carnival travel concierge services will take out the stress of booking flights, accommodations, and fete tickets.   While this may be the pricier option, concierge services will connect you to a group of people. In many cases, you won’t even need to worry about transportation, because they have it all figured out for you.  

5 days before I was supposed to go to Trinidad 2020, I was homeless (a story to be told later) and connected with Soca Islands.  This was a blessing. Prior to that mess, I couldn’t get into ANY of the popular fetes, but Soca Islands got me access to Ceasar’s Army Ambush, Soaka Street Festival, Soca Brainwash, and RedAntz Jouvert.  Soca Islands is gradually gearing up for Trinidad 2023, so check them out.

Travel solo, but connect with others.

going to carnival solo whatsapp
Now that outside has opened, the WhatsApp chats have been rather busy.

It’s true that you never play mas alone. Would you believe I have made a handful of friends going to Carnival solo?  Search Facebook groups and engage in discussions. Even if you are not traveling solo, the Facebook groups may have intel on events and developments not yet publicly known.

Many Facebook groups will also have links to WhatsApp chats to connect with and get information on what’s happening in the area.  You can get familiar with an entire group or connect with just a few attending people. WhatsApp chats are abuzz during the events, and people frequently send messages to link with the people they have been talking to in the group.

I also recommend the SoloMas app, which connects you to people who also go to Carnival Solo. Exercise discernment if you choose to share accommodations or transportation with people you don’t know. You should also ask experienced masqueraders if they know anyone they trust going to that particular event, and if they can connect you to them.

Enroll in the STEP program.

solo travel safety tips
STEP program is for US Citizens and Nationals.

If going overseas, enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  It is a free service that allows US citizens and nationals to register their overseas travel with the nearest US Embassy. 

The benefits of enrolling in STEP include: 

  • Receiving important safety information about your area of travel.
  • Establishing a means for the US Embassy to contact you in an emergency back home.
  • Help the US Embassy get you in a natural disaster or civil unrest.

Personal Security for going to carnival solo.

To me, this is the most important.  I will say you need to let your immediate circle know your FULL itinerary.  This includes your flights, transportation reservations, accommodations, fetes, tourist activities, and even who you’re playing mas with. If there are any deviations to the plans, you should update your contacts accordingly. Check-in with everyone often.  When my sister was overseas, she maintained a group chat to keep everyone abreast of her location.  If we didn’t hear for a while, we knew to check with her or escalate things if something was awry.  If you and your contacts have iPhones, I would recommend you share your location until you get back home.

Hook-ups (’cause we’re adults). If you meet who you feel is the love of your life (cause carnival will do that), your people better know a government name, that individual’s phone number, and where you’re going with that person. I personally snap a picture of them when they aren’t looking.  I’m not sorry about this whatsoever.  Send it to your circle back home, and let them know when you two part ways.

Wear an alert device.  For example, my Garmin 945 has an alert feature that I can trigger to contact people on my list to track my exact location.  Reaching for your phone may distract you, but pressing a button on a watch, ring, necklace, etc., will allow you to keep your eyes on your surroundings.  This feature came in handy just a few weeks ago. 

 

More personal security tips

Unpopular opinion: Skip AirBnB’s.  In this day and age, you have read horror stories from people who have traveled and stayed in an AirBnB.  Most hotels have access to security, cameras, and an additional hard-wired phone in an emergency (especially if your cellphone reception is poor).  If you are staying in an Airbnb or hotel, I suggest you never stay on the 1st floor and ask to be appointed to a room far from an exit.

Never tell anyone that you are traveling or staying somewhere alone. In some cases, I’ve lied about my marital status.  In other words: lie for the sake of your safety.  Everyone has seen the movie “Taken,” right?  Ok.

If you are traveling overseas, get a local SIM card. You may require your cell service to unlock your phone.  If you can’t, purchase a burner phone with a local SIM card and keep it for emergencies.

Personal protection measures.

If you have a concealed carry license in the US, and want to keep your firearm at your accommodation or with you in some areas, know the state reciprocity laws. Also, check the regulations on flying and claiming a firearm overseas here.  Check the laws governing where your firearm can be inside a vehicle.  NOTE: I do not encourage anyone to bring a weapon to a carnival or any fetes, and you wouldn’t be able to get in with one anyway.

Know your surroundings.

going to carnival solo maps
With Maps.me, I downloaded the map of Trinidad and Tobago to my phone in 2020.

Did you know that taxi drivers have a dress code in some Caribbean islands? Some taxi colors are even different from the yellow you might see in the United States.  While overseas, I take a photo of the car and license plate before I get in, and send it to my people back home. I also snap photos of any identification cards or certificates displayed inside.   

If you are traveling stateside, you can look up crime data maps in the areas you might stay in.  As always, talking to someone who knows or lives in the area (if traveling overseas) is super helpful.  You should also seek Facebook groups and WhatsApp chats for this information.

Download the app: Maps.me. You can download the maps from all over the world in advance, so if you don’t have cellphone reception, you can still get where you need to be or find alternate routes. (If you stay at one place for a while, I recommend you never use the same route every day).

Take note of the nearest hospitals and police stations.  If you are overseas, you should know where the nearest US Embassy is if you lose your passport or need any other services.

Defeat FOMO and stay safe!

I actually find solo travel fun for many reasons, but I also make sure I take the steps necessary to be safe.  If you are a future solo masquerader, don’t fret! And if you’re traveling solo and run into me, we can chip down the road together.

Also, check out my solo experience with Lost Tribe in 2020.

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Band Launches: Why you should attend.

By Posted on 4min read86 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 read91 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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