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Spectators, vendors cry foul Worst Downtown ever

Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Spectators wait for bands to pass on South Quay, Port-of-Spain, during yesterday’s parade of bands. PHOTO: ANDRE ALEXANDER

Vendors and spectators both complained about the lack of bands and sales in downtown Port-of-Spain on Carnival Tuesday. Many of the traditional routes (lower St Vincent Street, South Quay, Broadway among others) saw a fraction of the spectators it usually would on a Carnival Tuesday. Both vendors and spectators said they felt Carnival had become elitist. Lawrence Maharaj sat with a group of other spectators waiting for bands to pass by. He described the lack of bands in and around downtown Port-of-Spain as painful.



“I have not seen anything...two pieces of a band. It is much less this year. They are taking Carnival away from the normal Joe. Carnival is going to the upper classes.” Visitor to T&T, Patricia Faura who left T&T 48 years ago and now lives in Toronto, said she did not see herself returning for Carnival next year because of the lack of bands downtown. “For the last six years the mas downtown has become worse and worse. This year is absolutely the worst. Look at the children waiting to see mas,” she said. 


Kasey Blackman, a vendor on South Quay for more than 20 years, said she saw a dramatic decrease in sales this Carnival by as much as 75 per cent. Blackman attributed the lack of sales to the new mas venue at the Socadrome which, she said, took away most of the people from downtown. 


Similarly, nuts vendor Victor Weekes, who has been selling for more than 37 years said, he was unable to sell 100 packs of nuts by noon yesterday: “This Carnival is the worst…and it is a month end.” He said usually Broadway and South Quay were usually filled with people but only pockets of people were seen milling around Brian Lara Promenade and South Quay. 


Brandon David, a drinks vendor along South Quay, said it was the worst Carnival he had seen in his 16 years as a vendor. He estimated an 80 per cent decrease in his sales. “Plenty spectators came and set up and left cause they were seeing nothing. The island between Wrightson Road and South Quay would usually be full all now,” he said. David pointed out that many of his crates filled with drinks were still full. Vendor Richard Mohammed said he paid $850 to have his bar but did not even make $600 over the Carnival week.


“Usually, this area (lower St Vincent Street) is filled. As you see there is no one. You paying to rent a spot and you not making anything. I had to push around my trolley to sell,” he said pointing to the cooler stacked with drinks resting on a trolley. He said all-inclusive bands were responsible for the poor sales. 


Port-of-Spain Mayor Raymond Tim Kee said he could not say why there were not as many bands downtown nor did he wish to comment, at the moment, on whether or not Carnival had become elitist. Tim Kee, however, said there was “more activity” downtown on Carnival Monday as opposed to Carnival Tuesday. He said while he was downtown at the Lord Kitchener Stand, South Quay he saw a few bands pass by before heading to the Piccadilly Greens, in East Port-of-Spain.


The first band, although not in its full complement that passed the Lord Kitchener Stand, South Quay was Island People at approximately 7.59 am and it was followed by large band Paparazzi. Machel Montano’s Ministry of Road dominated the downtown judging point as the bands went by. 


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