- Soca 2018! -

Thursday, August 07, 2014

A tale of two parades

Karabana had her say, and now it's my turn.

Apparently, there is only a two or 3 hour window during which you can put on a Caribbean parade in Toronto. If you haven't finished parading during that time, good luck to you.
 It was a very different experience between the first 3 bands in the parade and the last 6 bands.

The first 3 bands got to go down the road on time with little delays and almost no stormers. Of course, there were a few guys who jumped the fence early, as well as the occasional boyfriend wearing his girls wrist band.  Typically, these guys aren't bothering anyone and the numbers were manageable. The stage was clear of spectators, and the bands were able to portray their mas for the judges.
Karabana played with Saldenah this year (section 8), in the number 3 position and had a pretty good time with no complaints. After she passed judging (where I was taking pictures) we left the parade route to take the obligatory pics by the lake with ducks in the background. We also took the chance to get lunch (Popeye's) fried chicken, watermelon and rum.... any more stereotypes I missed? Anyway, I had time to take the pics, eat, line up for a porta potty and Saldenah was still passing. That band was big boy, I heard 4,200 members.
Up until this point, we were thinking the festival had been a great success. The tweaks they made to the route had worked pretty well.
We noticed that there was quite a long gap between Saldenah and band number 4 Carnival Nationz. We were standing on the side taking pictures when we bumped into some Nationz friends who complained that plenty Saldenah masqueraders had turned back up the route and were even crowding Nationz at the judging point. It was all downhill from there.

By that time, the crowds had started opening the fences and people were coming onto the route in droves. The jam was getting rough, we exited and figured we'd walk back to the media area and see if we could get some more photos. When we reached back at the judging point we heard the Tribal Knights (band number 5) DJ pleading with the non masqueraders to clear the stage area so they could present their mas. This proved to be futile, and they basically had to give up being judged.

So this year, it looks like everyone made it out of the Exhibition and onto the Lakeshore, but the judges could only really see 4 bands maybe?

The festival management did try some new stuff. At the official breaks in the fencing, near the main vending area, they had double fencing manned by actual police officers. That seemed to work pretty well, But you can't line the entire route with police. And too many of our demographic have no behavior\respect\consideration\decency pick your FREAKING positive attribute and they don't have it. So, the 2nd half of the parade gets ruined.
The idea of moving the main judging point onto the Lakeshore wasn't a terrible one, it didn't work, but it had good intentions. The point was to try and keep the parade intact longer. After judging, masqueraders wander around to find their friends and grab lunch or whatever. I think the idea was to keep them in formation longer. Also, security tries their best to "hold the line" up to the judging point. If the judging was earlier, the route would be a disaster earlier. I heard many people say the ride was pretty smooth until judging. If judging was back in the exhibition, doesn't that mean that the ENTIRE lake shore would have been a mess much earlier? Personally, I don't care about judging. That's for the triad to worry about. Whether they judge all the bands or not, they still got their title\money right?

This is the third year I didn't buy a costume (after playing mas for more than 20 years straight).
Years earlier, I came to view the "Grand parade" as a necessary evil I had to endure before I could really enjoy myself in Barrie and Hamilton. After those died, combined with the poor attitude of Toronto spectators, I decided the Toronto experience just wasn't  worth $400 (as a couple). We still contribute $200 and Kara gets a costume. Every carnival morning I show up wishing that I could see something that would convince me to come back next year and play mas because I MISS IT. Kara had a good experience, but its because she lucked out and played in the first few sections of band 3.
Some people on social media are throwing around the idea of a masquerader boycott.... a lot of hot air. We all know that there are enough masqueraders to fill up the triad and that is all that matters.

But I know, every year that this goes on, we are loosing more core longtime masqueraders who realize that prices go up every year, and masquerader enjoyment, safety and security goes down. Perhaps we are just aging out of the parade. But, how long do you think this is sustainable if we can't improve the experience for paying masqueraders? Do you think the Americans are still going to make the trip every year in their numbers to see three bands? If you can disillusion me (a self appointed cheerleader for the festival).... what about the casual attendee?

Save Toronto Carnival 


jaedalaurez said...

This was the first year where I had more fun at the parties/fetes during the week than actually jumping up at the parade. As someone who played with Saldenah as well, has for years, and normally has a fantastic experience with them, our experience was definitely different from Kara. We had no idea when judging was supposed to be, or that there were two different types of judgings. We were stuck in our sections for far too long because judging was too far down the road (which was compressed by that huge barrier on the lake side), and by the time the "real" judging happened, it was after we'd been forced to do extra laps on an empty road in the CNE because paying people showed up late and the organizers made us go back; from what I understood, some of the band couldn't even get back on the road because they locked off the gates- so what was the quality of what those second judges were judging anyway? Everybody had less energy, and there were a bunch of non-masqueraders on stage with us, and it was a frustrating experience as we watched our section leader try to clear non-masqueraders from the section before we went on stage.

Not to mention the fact that we were forced to use those stupid green wristbands, but then weren't allowed to get back on the road. I had to argue with "security" at Duffering who was letting stormers OUT of the parade that we, paying masqueraders in costume with wristbands, should be let back on the road with our band, only to be told "the organizers have said we can't let people in." The first told us to try further down the Lakeshore, going towards Keele, even though the parade turned right at dufferin. The second refused and told us to walk even FURTHER down Lakeshore. Finally, about 10 of us ganged up on him and he relented, but c'mon now. What was the point of the wristbands? This was just ridiculous. I'd take whatever minor frustrations I had last year over the foolishness from this year.

Lisa said...

Well said and I completely agree. You shouldn't have to pray that your band is #1 or #2 going down the road just so you'll have a good time. The masqueraders in band #9 should have as much of a good time as the ones in band #1. And the fact that this isn't happening is a huge problem. It's been going on for too long, and for me, I'm done. I love my mas...but I'll play it somewhere else from now on, because it doesn't seem as if the pleas of the people who are helping bring in the money - the masqueraders - are being heard.

KevCanada said...

My sister and I played mas with Saldenah and we were confused as to where the real judging point was. By the time we approached the stage, the barriers along the road were being dismantled by spectators, and stormers were pouring onto the street, knocking into both my sister and myself. By the time we reached the stage, stormers had to be cleared away from our section ranks, just so we could perform. I was annoyed and frustrated with the whole thing.

Then, we were forced to double back to the CNE, and by then I was too hot and tired of being jostled and pushed around. I left the parade and missed out on the full Lakeshore experience.

What always frustrates me is to see security personel lined up against barriers where there is no crowd, but in areas where barriers are being actively dismantled and crowd folk are scaling the fences, not a single security guard or policeman can be found! Last year, a security guard gave my sister a hard time for not having a wrist band, making her cry tears of frustration, yet an hour later as we are on the road, scores of stormers are scaling the fences with no security in sight.

I love my soca and I love my Caribana. Carnival Saturday is a tradition my family looks forward to every year. But playing mas may be the one experience I may have to give up. Last year's experience was annoying, and this year's was downright frustrating, and I would rather invest my $200 costume money on something less aggravating.

Is anyone in the Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival organization listening to the experiences and concerns of the masqueraders?

Kiana James said...

This year has been a total DISASTER… and if I was about to sit here and point out where everything went wrong it would take me forever to do that. This is my second year playing mas, and this year I played mas with Saldenah. In the past I was what you call a “stormer” (I'm ashamed) but now I understand why the masquerader’s would get upset when they see you hoarding up Lakeshore. Security this year was a JOKE, having the second judging stage so far down from the CNE grounds was a JOKE, having some of Saldenah’s truck turn back into the CNE grounds was a JOKE, the fact that some of the other small bands did not get the opportunity to be judge was another JOKE. Whoever is responsible for this mess needs to come forward and give us some answers. Next year I am not even sure if I'm going to play mas just because I feel like this whole thing is going down the drain… and to add salt on that wound the fact that my girlfriend and I got TRAMPLED by a gang of fellas to the ground because of a fight gives me more reason not to participate next year… unless something changes.

Trini-in-Toronto said...

I can't promise any changes, but believe me when I tell you that Festival staff will read every word that you have posted here. Thanks for your comments

Trini-in-Toronto said...

Sorry for your bad experiences, and thanks for reading the blog and commenting. The Extra laps for some of the Saldenah masqueraders wasn't planned, it was a spur of the moment thing. (Kara's section didn't do this as they were close to the front of the band) What happened was the bands were so efficient at getting moving out of the CNE, that by 1:30pm the last band was leaving. Now, you have a bunch of people who paid $5 for general admission, $20 for bleachers and $100 for cabanas. And some of them were only arriving at the CNE at noon or 1pm and they are realizing that they missed everything. So rather than have a riot (or give refunds), they asked Saldenah to send some of his masqueraders for another round to entertain the late comers. I shouldn't really call them late, judging from past experience, they assumed things wouldn't run on time and they showed up at what they thought was a reasonable time. They were wrong.

Kryssy said...

I actually came back to re-read Kara's blog and post my 2 cents but this blog literally tells exactly how I feel about my experience this year. The pre-parade anger expressed by some fellow masqueraders in my band (Tribal), made me feel the need to go on the defensive for the camp. It was so disheartening but understandable to see people so upset about not being able to pick up their costumes on a specific day and about previous bad experiences. I went to the camp the night before the parade to get a costume for my cousin and it was mele. The Tribal
Camp was clearly frustrated by production delays they were having and the masqueraders were very angry. My cousin fortunately got her costume by parade day morning. I on the other hand felt so exhausted from defending the camp on social media that I didn't even feel as excited to play mas. People's opinions and complaints were valid but it was tough to see things play out the way they did... And strange that people tried to attack me for defending the camp. LOL.
Anyways.... Parade day was PERFECTION. PERFECTION. I was with the Bliss section and it was the most fun section I've played mas with in the last four years. We had the best DJ truck (G Factory Live & DJ Shy D Outlaw--- OMG... Their music.., the vibe... We didn't want to leave their truck. As a matter of fact, we got scolded for staying with the truck and leaving a huge gap from the section in front of us. LOL) My section was turnt up and I bonded with two of the other section leaders and many people in our section. Some of us had the pleasure of being photographed on Lakeshore with Machel Montano and I got to take a selfie with him. Lol. I noticed stormers break open a fence behind some porta-potties but Tribal's Marshalls got people to stop coming in very quickly and got the police to come close the fence. And the stormers were actually THREATENING Tribal's Marshalls. About 1/3rd of a mile from judging, was when things got really bad. It was probably the worst stormer situation I've even been in. My huge SL backpack was pushed and bent until the left side was partially broken. I was literally telling people not to bump my costume. Some of us started asking people to leave the band it was THAT bad. I was cussing every time I got pushed. LOL. The DJ was telling people over and over to leave. Tribal's Marshalls were the best in my section that I've ever seen. They were kicking people out left and right but for every 10 they got out, 20 more would come in. And even masqueraders from other bands were in our band. Very annoying. It took my section forever to cross judging. We were the last section in Tribal and I thought we were judged as there were judges seated in the tent... But I've been hearing otherwise? Once we crossed judging two of the individual costumes had to be broken down in the street because people had destroyed them so bad. After judging the parade seemed to be over for us. I left and went and found my family off of the parade route. I was cheered back up en route to them because people and their kids kept stopping me for pictures and I gave away my wrist wear to two little girls. It was nice to have that experience for the first time and pass on good vibes from our culture. I've been saying that this year was my last year... Because I can't take another experience with the stormers. They ruin it and they are very disrespectful. One grabbed my rear and I had to threaten to end his life. LOL. I loved my costume though. :)

Kara Bana said...

jaedalaurez we experienced that same thing as well, not allowed to get back on the road. Keeping masqueraders out of their own band? Steups, come on, Mr. security, you have to admit, something aint right with that.

You hit the nail on the head KevCanada, MANY masqueraders were confused as to where the real judging point was - that's why many didn't know it (& act accordingly) when they were at it.
There was plenty of confusion over this new route, additional judging, & then the returning back into the CNE for the last 1/2 of the band.

Kryssy I should have known we'd meet up on fb, lol, FINALLY!! :-) The thing w locals being irritated w costume pickup on the Friday is that it's the BIG fete night. Ppl don't wanna be holed up in a hot mas camp sitting around for hrs. waiting for their costume to be finished - they have tickets to something, they want to start feting! Plus, the chances that you have to make adjustments/alter something on your costume is quite high, & when it's ready only at the last possible hour, you've got no time for that, you have to wear it as is. :/
I could feel Dexter's pain in his msgs he sent last week, & then having to tell ppl pickup is now on the Friday night. O.O That's a band leader's worst nightmare, believe me, they don't want that drama. The lesson in that should be to section leaders, don't schedule your delivery cutting it so close to parade day. The idea of capping sections isn't bad either. Unless, again, you get your order in plenty of time to make the costumes for large amount of people you've let register for your section.

Kryssy said...

Yes. Totally agree. So glad we got to "meet." LOL

Glamour Puss said...

Hi KaraBana! I love your blog and read it regularly. I am new to playing mas (2012 w CnZ and 2014 again w Nationz) and your blog has been incredibly helpful in terms of prepping and figuring out what to wear for tights, footwear, etc. so thank you!

I am eager to hear your perspective on the situation after the 2nd judging point on Lakeshore. My girlfriends and I felt that we barely had a chance to dance at all. We had fun for a bit on Lakeshore but after crossing the second stage, the party suddenly stopped. We crossed before 4pm and the CnZ trucks soon disappeared. We sat in the shade on the side of the road waiting for the trucks of the next band (Tribal Knights I think) to come through after crossing the stage. I saw the chaos firsthand. I timed it and it took 1 hour for the first truck to come through because of the congestion around the stage area.

From what I saw, the congestion around the stage could be alleviated by sending the trucks and party down the road so that the stage area doesn't get blocked up. This year, after crossing, it was the only place music could be found. I heard many masqueraders + stormers complaining that they wanted to hear some music and to dance but the only music was back at the stage - there was none at the route. So I saw a whole crush of masqueraders + stormers double back to the stage area simply bc that's the only place there was music to be heard. This created a really scary and dangerous situation where Tribal Knights were trying to cross going forwards and pushing into a huge crowd of people running backwards the other way.

Once the Tribal Knights truck did cross, people along the road were happy to see it and started to follow the truck and the music along the road. However, within a few minutes, this truck too exited the route abruptly so Caribana was suddenly over. People once again rushed back to the stage area to try to prolong their Caribana experience.

I am not an expert on Caribana but I would suggest continuing the party down the road after the stage with lots of trucks and music. This will draw masqueraders and non masqueraders away from the judging area, allowing for a safer and more efficient crossing. Also, as masqueraders, it is hard to get pumped up to cross the stage and then suddenly abruptly stop dancing ... it felt very anticlimatic and disappointing. Several of my gfs (all have played mas for 7+ years and some since kiddie carnival) said they did not enjoy themselves this year and would not continue to play next year if the route/format was unchanged. I don't know enough to say but I have to say 2012 was definitely more fun than 2014.

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