Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Carnival Village and Calypso Competition at St. Thomas Carnival

Okay, it's the last crazy, frenzied week of Carnival, and it's pretty much none stop at this point. It's just party! Party! Party! And fun! Fun! Fun! Some of the events going on now, or coming up soon are:

The Village opened yesterday amid the usual fanfare. This is where everyone hangs out between events the last week of the festival. It's open almost 24 hours a day, and is the main meet-and-greet venue of the carnival experience. Everyone walks around greeting friends, digging and dancing to the music, eating, and yes, drinking.

The Village is named each year in honor of various citizens who have made serious contributions to carnival over the years. This year it's called: "Chummy's Culinary Kitchen".

The Village is built in a parking lot and is designed in a square comprised of about 20 booths that are individually decorated and named by their owners. It is all very colorful and actually, quite historical. A winner is chosen each year based on the design.

A stage is built in the center of the Village, and the best local bands, and many visiting bands play there each evening until the wee hours of the morning. People dance on the ground around the stage.

Preparing Pates

The most important function of the Village though, is the food cooked and served at each booth. This is another place to get those traditional Virgin Islands dishes that just aren't that available throughout the year. Beverages like Maube, Soursop, Guavaberry and many others are highly anticipated. And, dishes like Kallaloo (a soup), Conch (a shell fish), crab and rice, Johnny Cakes, Pates and so much more are eagerly sought.

The village is where you go to see and be seen; it's where everyone comes to mix and mingle and get their CARNIVAL ON.

This is when local Calypsonians compete against each other for the title of King of Carnival. It's something that's taken very seriously, as carrying the title of "king" can affect your income pretty much the way an Academy Award does; as well, it raises your prestige all over the Caribbean and everywhere calypso music is played and understood.

King Kan for Plenty dressed as a woman during Calypso Tent performance

In the weeks leading up to the competition, Calypso Tents are held around the island. In the tents local Calypsonians reveal their new songs for the carnival season. Only those considered the best will continue on to the finals at Lionel Roberts stadium the last week of carnival. These guys pull out all the stops in terms of costumes, props, back-up performers, etc.

Remember, the songs are satirical, funny, and/or ribald; and usually tell stories based on local gossip, political foibles, and achievements during the past year. This is where the audience really connects with the performers.

Calypso competition is one of the most important carnival events, primarily because it's really all about music.

Next time J'ouvert.

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The adventures ... and misadventures of a city slicker turned mellow islander.