South Calypso Monarch Darwren Greenidge, left, and Carnival queen Allison Emma John and Carnival king Joel Roney John, after they were declared winners at Skinner Park, San Fernando on February 9. – Grevic Alvarado
Mass confusion reigned on Friday night as southern Kings and Queens of Carnival were denied the opportunity to parade on the Skinner Park stage, San Fernando, at the Pre-Dimanche Gras – Night of Monarchs competition on Friday night.
The competition had to be rerouted to a minuscule portion of the dimly lit sloping cycle track, as stage access was hindered by columns holding up the roof.
Competitors and band leaders said they felt cheated, being denied the opportunity to parade and display their costumes as they have been doing for years before the judges and the receptive audience.
They felt alternative arrangements could have been made before the competition as the difficulty of accessing the stage was raised by Pan Trinbago during their pan competition the night before.
The confined space proved challenging for some of the more elaborate costumes, which touched the spectators, causing some breakage.
Earlier in the day, costumes were brought to the venue and mounted in a paved area near the Cipero Street entrance.
However, it was not until close to midnight that representatives of the various bands were called to assemble at the back of the stage where they were informed of the decision to parade at the alternative site.
A simultaneous announcement was made on stage by Convenor of San Fernando Carnival Dawad Philip who advised the few remaining spectators to take their chairs and head to the back of the stage near the cycle track, to witness an anti-climactic finish.
“This is unacceptable. Some $114 million was spent to refurbish Skinner Park and it can’t hold an international football match and now the stage is too small for masqueraders? Yet we want to market Carnival as the greatest show in the world?
“This is a party stage for calypso and chutney soca monarch and fetes, not for competition. Come on man, we have to do better than that,” one aggrieved competitor said.
In addition to the columns narrowing the space to enter and exit, masqueraders observed that the entrance and exit points to climb from the asphalt surface to the stage were also too steep.
“They know costumes are large, some measuring 30 feet wide and 40 feet high, so how could you build a 30 by 40 feet stage?
“When they are doing their engineering, they must consult the people who are involved in mas,” a representative from K Alleyne band told the Newsday.
“Clearly there was a lack of thought for the masqueraders. This is unacceptable. We pay so much money to get our costumes done and now everything is haphazard. The space is limited, there is an incline to the cycle track instead of a flat surface, the lighting is poor, nothing is professional.”
Although disappointed, Gishelle Taylor stated, “For me personally, it is just about getting the performance done. The audience came to see mas and we had to give them mas. It is disappointing but the costumes are already mounted.”
The stage was erected by the National Carnival Commission (NCC) since Calypso Fiesta on February 3.
Philip explained, “It is just one of those things with scheduling. One venue with so many activities. NCC put a standard situation in place and every event is modified accordingly. Because Chutney Monarch is such a huge event, they started to put things in place on Friday morning. It posed a challenge for the real full display of the costumes and that was unfortunate.
“To be fair, chutney had the place before we decided to put the Pre-Dimanche Gras on Friday. We are the ones that imposed on that. So, we work together to make it better.”
San Fernando Mayor Robert Parris, who opened the show, told Newsday, “Whatever shortcomings we had, we have a very long time to address and fix Carnival 2025.”
Parris promised to work with the NCC to address all infrastructure issues with the stage.
“We can only get better by working together and learning from our experiences.”
In spite of the constraints of space and time to parade on the makeshift stage, at the end of the night, siblings Joel Roney John and Allison Emma John, both representing Ayana Kalicharan’s band, were crowned King and Queen of Carnival.