*title taken from "True Masquerader" by Kes the Band.
Toronto Caribbean Carnival (Caribana)
There is so much to say about Toronto's annual long party weekend but, as I have already told you how amazing the Toronto soca scene is, I will focus on the one thing about this year that was different for me: playing mas.
If you read my review of Toronto Carnival 2013, you know that I was disappointed with the spectator experience. Paying money to watch the parade from behind a large fence with no real food all day is not my idea of a good time. So this year I decided to find out what the experience was like on the other side of the fence.
I chose to play mas with Saldenah (mainly because that's the band where I would hear the best soca deejay in Toronto). I was nervous about showing off my... umm... robust structure on the Lakeshore, but my worst fear was that I would get to the mas camp and they would not have my costume. Luckily, that did not happen. Not only did they have my costume ready, they also walked me through how to wear the elaborate pieces. I thought I would be getting a bedazzled bikini, but in fact I received a well-made outfit with feathers, leopard print, a decorative headband, and sturdy, bejeweled, hand-stitched pieces that will last for years - although I can’t think of where else I will ever wear them. For anyone who is afraid to wear a revealing costume out in public, the pieces are all adjustable and you can always wear your own high waist briefs, shorts, or tights to camouflage any areas you would rather not expose.
With my costume fears assuaged, I was geared up for the road on Saturday morning. As novice masqueraders, my friend and I made the mistake of arriving to the CNE grounds on time. We decided to patronize the makeup artists who were hoping to snag some early morning customers. This was an excellent way to kill time. The results were fantastic and I felt so good with my pretty costume and makeup that I forgot about being self-conscious.
When we got back to our assembly area, we were given a hearty breakfast that included rice, noodles, chicken and bottled water so that we could keep our energy up for the parade. We ate and then rolled out. We were told to stay in our sections for the entire parade since there are now two judging points. This would have been fine, except we were unable to go to the back of the band to get water from the truck as we were on the road. Thankfully, before the second judging point, the water truck was able to move along side us and provide much needed hydration. Staying in our sections also meant that Amazonia was kept two sections away from Dr. Jay's music truck, a personal disappointment to me.
We moved along the route rather quickly before we were told to once again line up and get ready to cross the stage. For those who have not played mas before, this is the point where each section of the mas band dances in front of the judges to show off their costume and their rudest, wickedest, wildest behavior. This was the highlight of the whole day. The amount of energy and excitement that erupted from masqueraders at that moment cannot be described in words. It was fan-freakin-tastic!
From there, I feel like the Carnival started over. People were free to roam and jump up as much as they wanted to and I was finally able to dance alongside Dr. Jay's truck. However, as this was pretty much the end of the first lap around the grounds, this excitement was short lived. When it was announced that the trucks would be making another lap around, many people decided to call it a day - me included.
I am not sure of the motivation behind changing the parade route or having two judging points, but based on the reactions from more seasoned masqueraders, this was not the best idea. As for me, I enjoyed myself, but I could tell that something was missing. This was not the moving party I expected. There was some talking and socializing, but not enough dancing and waving. Hopefully, next year, this will all be worked out and the experience will be better.
So now that I have been both spectator and masquerader, which side of the fence do I prefer? Masquerader. I mean, how else will you get any food?
Click here to see pics and video from Flare, Soca or Die, and the Saldenah Boat Cruise.