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The Carnival goes on despite Irene

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO

Soaking rains failed to dampen the spirits of revelers who gathered by the thousands for this year’s Caribbean Carnival in Grove Hall.

“When it rains, we keep on,” said parade marshal Marydith Tuitt, observing the procession of bands from the shelter of the judging stand at Franklin Park.

While the threat of tropical storm Irene kept away busloads of revelers who regularly travel in from New York and other cities, an infusion of new bands added new energy to this year’s Carnival.

“There was a new energy that was really interesting,” said Michael Smith, whose website, Boston Carnival Village, includes news and images from the parade and other Carnival events.

With crowds estimated at between 100,000 and 300,000, Caribbean Carnival is one of the largest cultural events in Boston. Styled after Trinidad’s pre-Lent celebration, which usually happens in February, Boston’s Carnival revolves around a competition of masquerade bands, each of which is judged on their costumes, dancing and overall presentation.

The parade route, which stretches more than half a mile from Martin Luther King Boulevard to the entrance of Franklin Park, was lined with spectators and brightly-colored revelers dressed as gladiators, American Indians, mythological figures, sailors and other traditional Carnival themes.

The masquerade bands have as many as 250 dancers divided into sections, each with its own color scheme. Other bands, like Mud Band, have no costumes and attract upwards of 4,000 people.

The three judges of this year’s carnival, flown in from Trinidad, gave the TnT Social club’s presentation “Survivors of the Arena” the highest marks. Number two was Soca and Associates’ “Arcadia — the Exotic Realm.”

The highest scoring king costume, was worn by TnT band leader Eroll Phillips and designed by Trinidad resident Ronald Blaize. Cumm Cross Production won the queen competition.

“The costumes were really competitive,” said Caribbean American Carnival Association of Boston President Shirley Shillingford. “You look at TnT and Soca and Associates — they were just a point or two apart from each other. It shows you how tight the competition was.”

While the weather kept attendance at the Carnival parade down, attendance at other events was up, according to Smith. Smith estimates that more than 1,000 attended the Kiddie Carnival, held at White Stadium last week.

The King and Queen Competition was held at the Reggie Lewis Track this year and drew several thousand.

On the morning of Carnival, the traditional sunrise celebration of j’ouvert drew 6,000, Smith said.

“I give everything that happened good grades,” he said.