It won't be long before the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines get all revved up for the country's premier cultural event of the year. Regarded as the Caribbean's hottest summer festival, "Vincy Mas" as it is affectionately dubbed will explode in spectacular fashion in a 12-day festival of calypso music, beauty and revelry from June 25 to July 6, 2004.
If you need any convincing, the truth is that thousands of visitors from North America, Europe and the Caribbean pour into this 150-square-mile island in the Eastern Caribbean for a celebration of street dancing and costumes, steel bands and calypso, along with the glamour and glitter of a vibrant Caribbean carnival. Many join in, perhaps to sign up with a costumed masquerade band or to simply plunge into the hurricane of parties and other outdoor festivities. Others prefer to watch the celebrations in awe at the artistry and creativity of talented artisans and performers.
For those of you who haven't witnessed this great spectacle, imagine being immersed in a colorful ambience of sequined costumes glittering beneath the Caribbean sun, dancing in the streets to the pulsing sounds of steel bands, brass bands and disc jockeys playing the latest calypso melodies, while drinking a cold Hairoun beer or some other concoction to soothe away the heat.
Whether you notice it, the carnival spirit will sneak up on you, aided and abetted by fun-loving Vincentians, who are experts in celebrating and will go out of their way to welcome visitors and help them take part in this cultural celebration on the nation's calendar.
Already, the costume designers and builders have returned to the drawing boards and tables to produce masterpieces for this year's celebrations. Their search for appealing themes has led them to subjects of illusion, fantasy, the splendor of nature and the future.
The attraction of the costume bands is that participation is open to Vincentians and visitors alike. It is the carnival spirit that matters, not who or what you are or where you are from. Beautiful costumes and fond memories are available to masqueraders for $50-$100 (U.S.), the typical price of carnival costumes. For those of you who want to make your own costumes, the Jouvert parade and afternoon street party are opportunities to reveal your creativity.
The festivities warm up two months before the official opening date in June. This year, Vincy Mas will begin May 8 with a daylong affair featuring cultural entertainment, arts-and-crafts displays, games and activities for the entire family. The much-anticipated motorcades will leave the northern end of the island and culminate in the capital. They will then join the rest of the country to signal the official start of activities leading up to June 25.
A series of nationwide shows (popularly referred to as "tents"), where the latest calypso bands can be heard live, will also follow this launch. The tents attract hundreds of enthusiasts who are there to hear and feel the pulsating rhythms of the latest calypsos.
This music will be transformed by the steel bands, which pump out the latest calypsos and provide the irresistible rhythm and melody for dancing feet and lively masqueraders.
The 2004 program includes shows featuring calypsonians of international and regional repute. The Miss Carnival pageant draws the Caribbean region's finest ladies in a one-of-a kind show that features beauty, intelligence and talent.
Vincy Mas 2004 will be an experience not to be missed. Bring your friends, and share this exciting fantasy in color, sound and movement more fun more flair more fantasy!
Adapted from a feature written by Michael S. Peters, cultural research officer at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture of St. Vincent and the Grenadines