Driving east on Friday afternoon to El Dorado, the traffic jam extended from the lighthouse, that falling symbol of Port-of-Spain superiority, into the first traffic light near Valsayn.
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Protest over new junior mas parade
The leaders of children’s bands participating in Saturday’s Republic Bank Junior Parade of the Bands are up in arms against the National Carnival Bands Association (NCBA) for changing the traditional parade route from South Quay, Port-of-Spain, to the Queen’s Park Savannah. Bands will now set off from Adam Smith Square, Woodbrook. Multiple Band of the Year winner, Rosalind Gabriel, speaking from the United States, expressed frustration over the change of route.
She asked: “If the route for the adult bands was reversed because of the wind factor how could they leave the kids to face the wind? The children will be going against the breeze.” Gabriel added that with the route change, parents would now have additional transport problems. She said: “The parents want to be downtown. They do not want to be in Adam Smith Square. “At least 60 children’s bands are not in support of this route. This is a terrible thing to do to the children. It is their one day to play mas in the road.
“Minister of National Security Gary Griffith said in a meeting that bands can go straight up Frederick Street if we go from South Quay. If this is done we can clear the Savannah early in time for Panorama finals to begin.” NCBA chairman David Lopez voiced a contrasting view, saying: “The parade route will begin at Adam Smith Square this year. Over the years we have had challenges but we are working them out.
“The issue of leaving the Savannah in time for Panorama causes us to hustle the last few children’s bands thus depriving the children of enjoying their mas. “Frederick Street is not a parade route. We have not gotten permission to use Frederick Street as a parade route. The Commissioner of Prisons has said that he does not want any mas bands in the vicinity of the prison on Frederick Street. Lopez said the NCBA consulted with junior bandleaders and looked at different aspects of the route.
“Everybody didn’t agree,” he admitted, “which is perfectly normal but the majority of those in attendance did. We are trying to get a better route for the children to allow them to enjoy themselves.” Vanessa Forde, bandleader of Classix Productions, playing Hototo this year, said: “This change of route will be detrimental to my masqueraders, especially my individuals, for two reasons.
“One, coming against the wind on Ariapita Avenue is going to mash up costumes, and two, people coming from the east who are accustomed coming out at City Gate and just meeting the parade downtown now have to travel down to Woodbrook to meet the parade. “No transportation has been provided to Woodbrook. There are no parking facilities available. People would have to walk from Woodbrook, leaving vehicles there for them to be wrecked by the police.”
She said normally the mayor has a competition on the Saturday at which bands competed before going to the Savannah. Forde claimed: “He has been taken out completely. This is to spite the corporation because of a problem with the past mayor. Once the mayor organises a competition for Downtown I am taking my band there.” Gabriel, agreeing with Forde, said: “The Downtown venue has been systematically and completely taken out of the mas. Why take mas out of Downtown?
“Could they take Divali out of the Nagar or Hosay out of St James? The city is celebrating 100 years of mas and the mayor is being disrespected in this manner. “Nobody cares, not the NCBA, not Allison Demas and the NCC, not even the minister (of Arts and Multiculturalism) or his government. Who really cares about the children?”
What the sponsors said
Republic Bank corporate communications manager Anna Maria Garcia-Brooks said the bank, sponsor of the parade, has endorsed the change to Adam Smith Square. She said: “Through the years there have been a number of challenges with the parade route as is. “There’s congestion, as well as the problem of having to divert the parade off Frederick Street to avoid the prison.
“Not to mention, having to turn music off outside the hospital. Another problem we have had was the vendors who encroached on the roadway, off the pavement. “There’s also been reports of vendors having open fires cooking corn soup, a definite hazard to the children.”
Garcia-Brooks added: “The route from Adam Smith Square offers a wider route with space for the children. We are willing to try something new and are open to the change. The NCBA has assured that if it does not work we will try another alternative.”
Shuttle service for masqueraders
Yesterday, the National Carnival Commission (NCC) announced the provision of a shuttle service on Saturday for junior masqueraders. A release stated: “NCC approached the Public Transport Service Corporation to supply the service and PTSC has kindly agreed.” The service will run from City Gate, Port-of-Spain, to Carlos Street, Woodbrook, and will be provided for children (along with their guardians) who are participating in the Junior Parade of Bands. The service will be provided from 7.30 am to 10 am.