Thursday 14 August 2014

CARNIVAL ! SpiceMas 2014- Grenada

Thursday August 14th 2014

Carnival ! 

Just like any other big event, there is a build up to Carnival that starts weeks (even months) before the actual event. Steel drum bands (Steel Pan) and other bands participate in competitions across the Country and on neighbouring Islands. 

Colourful Spice Mas !

Meg the Carnival Queen!

We did not want to miss a thing, but trying to get an actual understanding of what to expect and a schedule of events was no easy feat ! No one, not even the official website, had a very precise description of start time or venues ! We had to  rely on past experiences, (Cruisers who have been here in prior years), before we finally felt we had a handle on it all. 

Enthusiastic Steel Drum players

Fancy "Bras",  all hand made

A few days before the big events, Meghan and I took a tour to see one of the kids steel pan bands practice and to get a "behind the scenes" tour of how the legendary Carnival Costumes are made. It was a good night, the music was great and we were both floored at the amount of work, attention to detail, & various materials which are needed: In order to best take advantage of the Caribbean sunshine, a huge variety of shiny, glittery material is used to enhance the hand made costumes, so mirrors, sequins, plastic gem stones, shiny feathers, glitter, etc, are favoured. 

Oil Down, Grenada's National dish
The men and women who were hand building each costume, were in the final 48 hours before “show time” and it reminded me of the few days of baking and cooking and other last minute preparations that go on in our country before Christmas. You could tell that these hard working individuals were prepared to stay up all night to get it all done. They were very generous with their time in showing us the various             

Joové revellers
aspects of the art of making a good Carnival Costume !  We had fun trying on a head dress (from last years Carnival- as we were not allowed to touch this year’s outfits) and eating the traditional  Grenadian "Oil Down" they had prepared for us, (complete with Pig Snouts !) 

Meg has a taste of Oil Down

During the Carnival (Monday and Tuesday), the costumes and dancers  compete as a panel of judges watch them go by. We hope that the Costume makers we met are rewarded for all of their hard work and will get a first prize; bragging rights for a whole year !

Out of her cocoon!

The same Wings a few days later
Costumes in the making

Joove devils

Carnival officially started on Monday Aug 11th.  The first major even to take place is the early morning “J’ouvert” (which they pronounce : ‘Joové’) which starts at 4:00 am. It is a large street party/parade where people turn themselves into “demons”, covered in black oil (some use oil, other use paints or even chocolate!), they don Viking helmets, chains, and other monstrous looking masks and props, to scare the evil spirits away before dawn.Participants and spectators alike are warned that “No one will go unscathed”, and so wearing old unwanted clothes to J’ouvert is strongly recommended, the “demons” will only be too happy to pour paint all over you as you stand by watching ! 

Joové revellers

So, it was in these such clothes that Mark bravely set out at 4:00 am on Monday. He was joined by his equally enthusiastic friend Tony (SV Pavo Real) who’d had his hair breaded by Meghan and her friends the night before to best resemble his Inner Viking.....Tony made all the Bugs Bunny fans smile, as he loudly sang :  “Kill the Wabbit, Kill the Wabbit....with my sword and magic hel...mut”....

Meg braided Mark's beard for the Carnival

Kill the Wabbit…..

MC, Matthew and Meghan joined in the fun at 6:00am, once the sun was up, we put on our old clothes and, very tentatively, head into town. We were not disappointed ! We saw demons everywhere, but nothing too scary, and everyone was most considerate of the children, they did not try to hug or paint us. What an experience we had !

The Blearing speaker truck
After coming home, cleaning up and resting.....we got ready for the next event “ Fancy Mas”. Which is the parade with all of  the wonderful costumes we had seen a few days before (in the making). Children, women and Men, were all decked out, parading in themed sections,  each one lead by a large truck carrying many 6 foot speakers piled on top of one another, giving off  more decibels of  SOCA music than human ears should be able to handle. 

On that note ; earlier that day, I had gone into to a bank and found that its windows were vibrating quite violently from the speakers in the streets. Trying to have a conversation near the music is an impossible task. 

Again, in true Caribbean style, no one had any real clue as to when the “Fancy Mas” parade was going to start, so we all gathered on the  main street at the recommended time: 2pm. As we sat and waited we met a great many others cruisers, many from Montreal, and enjoyed each others company in the sun, while we waited, and waited ! 3pm, a snow cone vendor was located by the children, and luckily there were plenty of stalls selling drinks and beer, 4pm, some cruisers were beginning to think that there was no parade, people started hinting that they were going back to the boat, and then, just like that, it started !  A great bustle as everyone stood at the side of the road to see the processions, much worth the wait !  What a beautiful thing to behold ! Although the music was not my favourite, the same “mind blowingly” loud and repetitive (and sometimes totally inappropriate  )  SOCA music!  But the costumes  ! Just Wow !  

While watching in awe at the elaborate head dresses,butterflies wings and dragons, etc...A fellow Canadian made the funny comparison to Canada day, in a mock conversation with a Grenadian: “So what is your big day in Canada?” “Oh, we have Canada Day!!!” And what do you do then?”  “Oh, It’s SO great ! We all get dressed up, in red and white clothes!!!!” Haha, Now that we have seen the colour and costumes in Grenada, it makes Canada Day look a bit simplistic, not to be unpatriotic or anything, just saying.

Do not try this at home

A few of us headed to Happy Hour at the Marina after the parade and enjoyed the festive mood that was all around us ! The last event of the day was “Monday Night Mas” , essentially is a parade of lights, sponsored by three of the largest companies in Grenada: "Carib Beer", "Lime" and "Digicel" (two cell phone companies). People who had bough their “Carnival kits” on the weeks before Carnival walked alongside their designated float. Each participant was wearing lights (on head bands, hats etc) which gave a fantastic light show for all the spectators. As we watched the procession of more than10 000 people coming down the hill towards us, with lights twinkling, floats lit up like something out of Disney World, all we could do was to mouthe a collective “Wow” !  

Dancing breasts

On Tuesday morning, we had a welcome break from all the noise, oops, I mean “music”,  getting ready for the final event which was the “Professional/Fancy Mas” which is another parade, similar to Monday afternoons, but with formal presentation by each group in front of judges. 

We gathered again, at the designated time of 2pm, and we waited, again, for a few hours before things got underway (No, we don't learn very quickly!) Once it had started and as we stood by the roadside watching the parade go by, a few of us  spotted the place where the judges were sitting, and so we rushed over to get closer to see all the competitive action. It was all very exciting and, as I was snapping pictures, it was not long before I had been separated from my friends, and I found myself engulfed into the “thick of it all”, surrounded by competitors, for a few minutes I was unable to even snap a picture as all I could see were feathers and glitter and frankly, I felt a bit lost is a sea of... dancing breasts... all around me. 

So I got into a crouching position and found myself  close to all  the beautiful children who surrounded me and I enjoyed their incredible energy ! Eventually I was able to free myself and get back to the spectator side of things, but what a RUSH that was, I then climbed up high on a fence to get the best view of the masses of Carnival revelers. It was very cool to see! 

  This lovely Carnival Queen offered  me her "head dress" to try on !

I can see how people might loose their children in these crowds, luckily our kids where up high also, and holding firmly to hands when crowds were at their thickest.Once the parade was all done, Meghan was happily picking up pieces of the beautiful costumes from off the ground, by the time we got to the dinghy, she had gathered enough gems stones to build herself a small version of the costumes ! 

This was our first Carnival in the Caribbean and we are so very happy to have been able to have participated to the extent that we did ! All that we have left now are the memories and the photos of the last few days, as we now enjoy the return of peace and quiet in the anchorage. 

Phew ! That was FUN !

Meghan on Amelie  (Written on August 31 2014)

'Meghan on Amelie's' author

Ah, welcome back aboard fellow shipmates! August in Grenada, I think we could all say was full of parties, events and great surprises! In case you don’t know, most of the Caribbean islands (and some countries in South America too) have a big festival each year called Carnival. Some Carnivals aren’t that big so it is basically just a normal cool-looking parade going down the street but Grenada was nominated second best Carnival in the world (Brazil is first) so we were quite excited when we found out it was going to happen when we here! We wanted to make the best of it since it was probably going to be the only Carnival we see in the Caribbean so let’s just say, we (especially my dad and I) went a bit out of the ordinary! 


There were 4 parades spread out between 2 days.The first parade was called: J’ouvert or Jab Jab and as I described it it was: “the march of the devils” because everybody really does everything they are not allowed to do any other day except for that day (not a pleasant picture in your mind is it?!)! It started at 4am and if you went parading with them (which I didn’t but my dad did), there was a guarantee you were going to be covered in either oil or paint and sometimes both! We came dingheying into town just to see what the parade looked like but we were dinghying in mostly oil not water! Rumour has it that some men just dumped out the rest of the oil they used to throw on people into the marina water! To make things worse, a couple of hours later, a few students who were covered in oil were standing on the yacht club dinghy dock and it collapsed so it was basically just oil everywhere you went! Eventually, they had it all cleaned up and the dinghy dock rebuilt.

Later that day, after everybody rested and got cleaned up, there was the next parade called: the Fancy Mas. This one was definitely more organized and well… fancier! All the groups came in sections to show off their costumes, dance and if you were lucky, you’d be able to sneak in to ask for a picture with them (and they’d always say yes!)! The same parade happened the next day but there were judges so each group did their own routine too! The costumes came in every different colours and shapes: some were black skeletons, some were white fairies, some were silver birds, some were beige and pink cowgirls, one man was even a big green dragon but my favourite group was definitely the blue, red, yellow and orange birds in the: “In Flight” section! Here are some pictures of the beautiful costumes there were! 

There were also few kids in the parade too and I would have to say that they were definitely the most enthusiastic! Seeing those adorable, delighted kids is something I will never forget! They came in groups too such as: all 4 seasons (snowflakes for winter, flowers for spring, suns for summer and colourful leaves for fall), cows, little boys as soldiers and little girls as pink butterflies and green fairies! After a full day of partying, yes… we still had enough energy to party a bit more. 

The night parade was called: Light Mas. My mom, my brother and I only stayed until about 9:30 but still saw some pretty cool things! There were 3 trucks with about 20 speakers on each of them and had blasting SOCA music (kind of like rock music but has a specific rhythm and non-understandable lyrics!) with people walking behind them dressed in a specific costume that they bought when they signed up to do this. They each sponsored a famous Caribbean business: one was Lime (a cellphone and internet service), one was Carib (type of beer) and one was Digicel (also a cellphone and internet service). All you could see coming down the hill was thousands of lights all different colours! A man would also sometimes tell everyone in the parade to move to either the left or the right and where we were it looked like a lit up wave! As the people walked by, you could all their light up accessories like: a viking helmet with light up horns and a light up axe, a fake mohawk that lit up and top hats that lit up! 

Before we left, one of our friends who had signed up to walk behind one of the trucks gave me a plastic tube that lit up that said Digicel on it so I waved it around the whole dinghy ride back to the boat! Overall, it was an amazing Carnival and I know I will never forget it (if this is second best Carnival in the world, this makes me really want to see Brazil’s!)!

Happy Carnival Crowd

Enthusiastic Participants


Smiling snowflake 

1 comment:

  1. I'm not going to lie, that made me cry! Ridiculous happy tears but tears nonetheless! The absolute joy of all that music, all those children, happiness, smiles and freedom of expression!!!

    Meg, those butterfly/angel wings match your halo ;-)

    Loved the dragon the best. Outstanding!!!

    Thank you for sharing xoxoxoxo