King of San Fernando carnival Leroy Prieto dies

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Leroy Prieto, centre, at the launch of Ayedamah on January 29 at City Hall San Fernando. To his right is Lionel Jagessar Jr in costume and to his left is poet/masman Mervyn Taylor. – Photo by Yvonne Webb

SAN Fernando and the mas fraternity in Trinidad and Tobago is mourning the loss of mas man and well known cyclist, Leroy Prieto.

The seven-time South King of Carnival, Prieto, 82, of Mon Repos, San Fernando, died on May 29.

San Fernando mayor Robert Parris thanked him for his indelible contribution to the mas landscape in San Fernando and Trinidad and Tobago.

Parris said the city was appreciative of all Prieto had done to advance the culture, and expressed condolences to his wife and family.

Former San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello also expressed profound sadness as he paid tribute to “a friend and Sando man, who was a sportsman and carnival enthusiast.”

In his expression of sadness, Regrello, who also played King of Carnival in the past, noted that Prieto still holds the record for winning the most King of the Band titles in the south overtaking him with his five wins.

“Although he started late, he understood the challenges of portraying a costume and kept it simple, where he was able to navigate the hindering effects of the streets of San Fernando. Another commendable example, was his ability to ignore the attractiveness of being lured into Port of Spain, choosing to play his mas at home.”

He recalled, “One of the highlights of his mas career, was when he was selected represent the country at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. As the co-ordinator of the cultural contingent of that event, it was always my pleasure alongside Junior Bisnath to ensure that all was well with him.

“Let us not mourn his passing, but celebrate a life that was well lived.”

Bandleader and convenor of San Fernando carnival Dawad Phillip said Prieto was “the real thing.”

Phillip recalled that when he returned to Trinidad and brought his first full band, Egypt : Land of the Pharaohs, Prieto played his King of the Band and won with his portrayal Horus D Avenger.

The band was highly successful, copping the Band of the Year title as well as Queen of the Band portrayed by Peola Marchan.

Prieto played more than once with Phillip and won several south kings with Fireworks and Ivan Kalicheran.

Phillip said Prieto also carved out a name for himself in Miami, where he lived for a number of years, winning several king titles in the Miami Carnival.

One of his more memorable memories, Phillip said, was when Prieto brought back one of the costumes he won in Miami with in a suitcase to Trinidad.

“It was such an innovate costume that it fit in a suitcase, and that’s where he got the nickname, ‘the suitcase king’ when he opened it up that night at Skinner Park.”

“Needless to say, he won, but was denied the opportunity to participate in the national competition at Queen’s Park, because he arrived home too late and missed he registration deadline.”

Phillip added, “He (Prieto) won seven titles in San Fernando and even when he did not win, he was just a sight to behold – a masquerader the public loved to see as he danced and paraded his costume so well.

“It was a pleasure to see Leroy on his thin legs portraying his costume on stage and on the street.

“One always got a performance from Leroy who had a gift of dance, not just in Carnival, but was skilled in ballroom dancing. He was one of those masqueraders who never used wheels on his costume. He carried his own costume and that give him a kind of unique performance.”

Phillip who has documented Prieto’s history in his book, Ayedemah, which was launched at San Fernando City Hall on January 29, lamented, “We are losing guys like that, a real repository of history. He was the real thing. He was passionate and took mas seriously.

“Condolences to his family and the southern, Trinidad and Tobago and Miami mas fraternity. We lost a good one there.”