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Caribbean Carnival back in Franklin Park

Pandemic changes put masqueraders in Playstead

Avery Bleichfeld
Caribbean Carnival back in Franklin Park
Masqueraders make their way up Circuit Drive during Caribbean Carnival. PHOTO: AVERY BLEICHFELD

Feathers, sequins and shimmering costumes filled Franklin Park Saturday afternoon as Boston residents gathered for the annual Caribbean Carnival.

Instead of its normal route down Blue Hill Avenue, the Carnival’s afternoon parade snaked through the park from the entrance at Circuit Drive. The early morning J’ouvert started at its usual spot at the intersection of Blue Hill and Talbot avenues.

Caribbean Carnival 2021 PHOTO: AVERY BLEICHFELD

The Carnival, which was run at a reduced scale this year, set up in the Playstead area of Franklin Park, where the parade ended.

There, vendors lined up brightly colored bracelets, food stands filled the air with the sizzle and smoke of cooking meat and vegetables and wagons loaded up with bottles of rum punch trundled up and down paths.

Music from the Branches Pangroove Steel Orchestra’s steel drums bounced around, and thrumming beats vibrated out of speakers. A stage waited for the evening’s concert.

Shirley Shillingford, president of the Caribbean American Carnival Association of Boston, said she thought the event went “exceptionally well” even with challenges from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Shillingford said the Carnival saw about 3,000 visitors, less than its usual number. She said that the full event tends to bring out more people as well as the largely absent excursion buses that come up from New York, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Caribbean Carnival 2021 PHOTO: AVERY BLEICHFELD

Mary Tuitt, who previously was part of the Carnival committee and remains an involved member of the community, said that some people were wary, given the spread of COVID-19, but others saw it as a valuable chance to get out and engage.

“Some people were not comfortable with it [because of the pandemic], others wanted something to do, get the community out,” Tuitt said. “After being in lockdown for so long, being able to do something like that was good, but at the same time it gave us the opportunity to see if a large crowd can function well in the pandemic.”

Organizers got a late start in planning the Carnival, not getting word they’d have the opportunity to run the festival until June. Despite that, both Shillingford and Tuitt said they thought the event was a success.