Carnival and its associated events shift around each year depending on the days of the main parade, which takes place on the last Monday and Tuesday before Lent; upcoming Carnival dates are as follows: Feb 8 & 9 2016; Feb 27 & 28 2017; February 12 & 13 2018; March 4 & 5 2019; Feb 24 & 25 2020. The tourist board website wgotrinidadandtobago.com has a fairly up-to-date calendar of events; the list here represents the main events, which appear in rough order of occurrence; Carnival season traditionally begins on January 1.
Opening of Calypso Tents
Calypsonians battle it out in the “tents” – regular buildings, these days – for a place in the Calypso Monarch finals. The best-known tents are Calypso Revue, SWWTU Hall, Wrightson Road; Kaiso House, Queen’s Park Savannah, at Dundonald Street; Klassic Russo, Port of Spain City Hall, Knox Street. Venues for Kaiso House and Klassic Russo are subject to change; contact the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organization (t623 9660, wtucott.com).
Steel pan bands play their composition of choice on the Savannah stage as they compete for the prestigious first prize. The semi-finals are the biggest deal, held on the Saturday two weeks before Carnival and featuring the “Greens” liming spot (entry fee applicable) as well as the actual pan competition. The finals take place on Carnival Saturday.
National Chutney Soca Monarch
The best of Trinidad’s popular chutney performers compete for the annual crown.
The children’s costumes and characters rival those of the adults. There are three parades: the Red Cross Children’s Carnival, held at the Savannah ten days before Carnival; the smaller St James Kiddies’ Carnival on the following day; and the Junior Parade of the Bands from South Quay to the Queen’s Park Savannah on Carnival Saturday.
Held on the Sunday preceding Dimanche Gras, and the last Friday before Carnival Monday, with parades throughout the day and evening from South Quay to Adam Smith Square on Ariapita Avenue; this is the best place to see traditional Carnival characters such as Blue Devils, Dame Lorraine, Burrokeets, Fancy Sailors and Firemen. There are also traditional mas parades in St James (outside the Amphitheatre, Western Main Rd); check the press for dates and timings.
International Soca Monarch
“Fantastic Friday” (the Friday before Carnival) sees the cream of the region’s soca stars sing for the prestigious International Soca Monarch and Groovy Soca Monarch titles to a huge and packed crowd in the National Stadium.
Parades by the King and Queen of Carnival and the Calypso Monarch, finals staged at the Queen’s Park Savannah on the Sunday before the main parades. Calypsonians go all-out with theatrical presentations of their compositions, while the sheer size of the King and Queen costumes, and the skill, sequins and special effects expended makes an amazing spectacle.
(pronounced “joovay”, from the French “Jour Ouvert”, the break of day). Marking the beginning of the festivities, Jouvert is “dirty mas”: raw, earthy and energetic. Wear as little as possible (no jewellery), join an organized band and expect to be covered in mud, paint, chocolate or even oil.
Carnival Monday Parade of the Bands
Parades through the streets of Port of Spain from noon till dusk; most masqueraders don’t wear their costumes on this day, instead getting creative with skimpy “Monday Wear”.
Carnival Tuesday Parade of the Bands
The full display of all the costumes. The route is the same as Carnival Monday; if you’re not in a band, you can view the bands from the stands at the Queen’s Park Savannah (for which you pay an entry fee), at the bleachers set up at the judging points at South Quay, Victoria Square on Park Street and Adam Smith Square on Ariapita Avenue at the Socadrome or anywhere along the parade route. Starts 7am.
The huge cooldown parties usually held at Maracas and Manzanilla have been scaled down in recent years; check the press for details of what’s on, or follow the crowds and escape to Tobago.