A little bit of background history into Carnival in New York
“Ms. Jessie Wardell and some of her West Indian friends started the Carnival in Harlem in the 1930′s by staging costume parties in large enclosed places – like the Savoy, Renaissance and Audubon Ballrooms due to the cold wintry weather of February. This is the usual time for the pre-Lenten celebrations held in most countries around the world. However, because of the very nature of Carnival and the need to parade in costume to music – in door confinement did not work.
The earliest known Carnival street activity was held during the 1940′s when Ms. Wardell, secured the first street permit for a parade type event on the streets of Harlem. During the 1960′s, another Trinidadian – Rufus Goring, brought Carnival to Brooklyn. In 1967, Goring passed the reigns over to Carlos Lezama, who became president of WIADCA and who nurtured the organization and carnival celebrations till 2001, when, due to his ill-health he retired and his daughter, Yolanda Lezama-Clark served as president till 2011. Thomas Bailey was elected president in 2012 and continue to serve. All lived in Trinidad & Tobago during their early lives. “The New York Caribbean Carnival Parade” has grown over the years from thousands of participants and tourists to over 1 million people in attendance since the mid – 1990′s according to then Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The influx of tourists from all over the world has benefited New York City on an economic level, most recognizably with large corporations, small businesses and the tourist/service industries”.
(Text taken from http://wiadcacarnival.org/about-us/)
Labour Day Carnival, part two – this time I am reaching 🙂
Just to explain, last year I went to New York for the carnival, but my intention was more for family than feting. Due to work constraints, I had to leave on the Carnival Monday, so could not play mas. To make things worse, my cousin lives round the corner from Ramajay mas camp in Brooklyn, (whom I desperately wanted to play with). However, just before I left to go to the airport on Monday, I wanted to take a sneak peek and breathe in that carnival air and feel that spirit of rumhood. Like a harassed ferret, I scuttled round there to take a look. I really wish I hadn’t, as I was crushed. Like a child imminently off to boarding school, solemnly staring whilst watching their parents board a yacht for the summer. I was like that, heartbroken and pissed off, but not this year! This time I am coming prepared. I booked early, I booked sufficient time off. However, it’s a brand new year, I registered early with Ramajay. What could possibly go wrong?
Ramajay Mas Band
To those that are curious (and it’s on their website) Ramajay is actually a word, whose origins come from Trinidad & Tobago. It essentially means to ‘show-off’, ‘flaunt it’ or ‘like yuhself’. Their website’s slogan for this year is, “dare to be different” and they also give themselves the title of “New York’s leading Ultra Premium Mas Band” (I look forward to defining exactly what the “Ultra” and “Premium” aspects are, as right now it’s not clear). The website is also littered with awards for best band every year from 2009 to 2016, so they must be doing something right. According to details on their website, masqueraders are given the opportunity of experiencing an “ultra-inclusive experience on the road”. Touting themselves as providing a great customer service in carnival day, from serving a tasty breakfast (all words from their said website), delectable snacks (where’s lunch for my ultra premium payment?). Unlimited non-alcoholic drinks (mental note – it didn’t mention anything about unlimited alcoholic drinks)! Breathtaking costumes, (definitely, a wholehearted, YES the costumes are amazing every year). Two 40 ft music trucks (the ’40ft’ element makes it sound long but it is really a fairly normal sized truck for the road). Apparently, the best DJ’s/Soca also provide “incredible vibes” on the road.
There are lots of “ultra”, “premium” and “all-inclusive” buzz words and other stuff to bump up the price, yet I am still trying to work out the “ultra-premium” element of it all. Perhaps my on the road experience will be different so let me update you in full once I have been on the road 🙂
The costumes are arguably incredible, I drooled at last years presentations and slapped myself for not being able to play mas, book in time and watching them go on the road without me :-(. This will be a different experience though, as I will chipping “down de road” down Eastern Parkway this year for sure.
A showcase of Ramajay Mas Costumes (courtesy of Ramajay Mas website http://ramajaymasny.com/main/shop/)
A beautiful selection of costumes, each one complimented with a number of variations to the style, such as full bodies or thongs. You have to click on the each section picture to see what alternatives are offered.
Prices range from $325 – $1100 and depending on additional costume accessories the costs can soar, beware they are selling out fast.
In terms of my costume wait till you see me on the road! Just note that I wanted the Perrier-Jouet costume but to my despair it had sold out early
Fetes planned (so far)
Feting in New York is from the sublime to crazy, Brooklyn is haven for the Trini massive and all the Soca artists come across to host fetes, so you can imagine the mix! I am already booked up for 2 major fetes, Jouvert and Carnival so no rest for me over the 4 nights I am there.
Sunny Side up Breakfast Party Fete
Held in many Caribbean countries around the world, Sunny Side Up is renowned for hosting some of the most infamous fete nights.
“Tipsy”, Rupee’s birthday bash celebration – With over 20 soca artists performing on the night.
The only thing yet to book is Jouvert, but I am booking late due to the changes that are being implemented this year. As with most traditional carnivals, Jouvert usually takes place in the early hours of the morning, but New York has been marred with violent shootings and murders that have been associated with this fete. Rather than cancel, it has been moved to start at daybreak, as opposed to the twilight hours to try to stem the violence. See more on the article below.
New York Carnival Jouvert changes for 2017
So readers there is more to come, so watch this space in September for the full review of my New York Labour Day bachannal weekend!