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Here’s to a luxury Carnival experience
Zahra Gordon and Bobbie-Lee Dixon
The past two decades have seen the advent of the all-inclusive in T&T—a package for Carnival events and services that cater to every conceivable need of partygoers and masqueraders.
Those needs come with a price, however. At the extreme of the all-inclusive experience, are events like the Hyatt Regency Hotel’s fete, Lime. Tickets for Lime cost US$275 for Platinum admission and US$500 for Diamond admission. Then there are the all-inclusive mas bands like Tribe and it’s smaller sister band Bliss—where costumes can cost as much as US$1,165.
The spending doesn’t end there either. Many masqueraders add extras to their costumes such as personal makeup artists and airbrushing, custom-decorated boots, custom Monday wear and custom pouches to match their costumes.
At the end of it all, Carnival can cost anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000 or more. So what are consumers paying for exactly and why do they go for the all-inclusive option?
History of the all-inclusive
The all-inclusive concept for parties started in the early 1980s with an event hosted by Roses Hezekiah, owner of the restaurant Veni Mange. In an interview at the restaurant on Ariapita Avenue on Tuesday, Hezekiah said the first party was held in 1983 at an old house in St Ann’s.
The party was the first large-scale all-inclusive with approximately 500 guests. Tickets for the party were priced at $65.
“In those days it was like wow. The idea of an all-inclusive was so phenomenal to people,” she said.
The menu included dishes like pelau, roti, cheese and hops, ham and hops and doubles. The bar was open. “The point of it was really the party experience. It was for people to come and listen to music and dance all night,” she said.
Now, the all-inclusive party is much more than that and Hezekiah says it’s simply a matter of evolution. “You can’t have an all-inclusive party unless you go all out. And that’s just how things developed. We have become accustomed to materialism,” she said.
The new all-inclusive
Tribe is considered one of the first new age all-inclusive mas bands. Tribe started as a breakaway from popular mas band Poison in 2005. In 2009, Tribe launched a second mas band, Bliss, which is marketed as the ultra all-inclusive experience. In addition to your costume, Tribe packages include a premium open bar, security for masqueraders, breakfast, lunch and snacks, mobile cool zones (trucks with mist that cools down masqueraders), mobile restrooms and goodie bags with souvenirs and Carnival essentials. For the all-inclusive party, the experience may include live entertainment, high-end menus and shuttles to the venue from your car.
At Lime, the menu includes sushi, lobster, caviar, rib-eye steak legs and Alaskan crab legs to name a few items. The drink menu runs the gamut from Johnnie Walker Blue, Green and Gold and Chivas Regal to various champagnes.
Blogger Saucy, from Trinidad Carnival Diary, does not believe that the all-inclusive experience is the norm, however.
“There are still many top bands that do not offer fully all-inclusive for all their sections such as Harts, Trini Revellers and Brian Mac Farlane,” she told the T&T Guardian via email.
“However, many of the younger generation of masqueraders do want the convenience of having a one-stop all inclusive experience so they seek out bands that offer this package.”
Saucy believes that convenience and a stress-free experience are essential to Carnival and these are the reasons why she chooses the all-inclusive experience.
“When I hit the road I do not want to think that my favourite drink will run out or that I have to jostle for space in the band with non-costumed masqueraders or that security fails and I am left in a potentially dangerous situation,” she said.
Saucy spares no cost on the additions to her costume such as custom-decorated boots, professional make-up artist, virgin hair extensions and eyelash extensions. She believes the costumes and additions transform her into someone glamorous for Carnival.
Not all hosts of all-inclusive parties are focused on over-the-top offerings, however. For the hosts of Beach House—a Carnival Thursday all-inclusive fete which costs $1,000 per ticket—its all about providing quality service and convenience.
Beach House provides a premium bar, food from high-profile chefs, and exclusive locations. Yet, Curtis Popplewell, co-host of Beach House, said there was no real answer to whether or not all-inclusive is a luxury aspect of Carnival.
“For many people the whole of Carnival is a luxury because it’s not essential to participate. So to say that there is some luxury aspect inside of it, I can’t,” he said during an interview at the Beach House Entertainment headquarters on Brabant Street, Woodbrook.
“We’ve never had a VIP or VVIP section at our party, everyone is an important person in our space.”
He said that the demand for certain services is controlled by the consumer.
“It’s customer driven in terms of what services are offered. Fifteen years ago, there was no need for chocolate covered strawberries at a fete and now people expect dessert bars,” he added.
Carnival Cost Analysis
Hyatt Regency Lime All Inclusive: US$275 or US$500
Beach House All Inclusive: $1,000
Costume in Bliss: US$1,165
Monday Wear: $800-$1,100
Custom decorated boots: $200-$500
Makeup: $200-$700 per day. Some makeup packages include gems and rhinestones, professional photography and a light breakfast. Airbrushing is also an option which can transform stomachs into glowing abs.
Carry-all pouch: Between $60-$150. The carry-all pouch is a custom bag made to match your costume and carry phones as well as other essentials.
Carnival survivor pack: $300. Includes toiletries, sun screen, personalised flask, wipes and map/Carnival guide.
Get the right shoes for the road
Boots and heels look exceptionally sexy with your Carnival costumes but you might want to consider altering your swag this Carnival Monday and Tuesday if you want to keep your pretty feet.
Wearing the wrong shoes to masquerade on the streets can cause a great deal of trauma to your feet and legs.
Local fitness trainer and author Garth Voisin said he usually recommended shoes to his clients especially when it came to training at the gym and outdoors.
He said: “For the road, I would go with something more of a cross trainer—giving support for the entire foot and not just the heel—which is a common mistake of many as they go more for the look and less for the support that cross-training shoes provide.”
He said fancy-looking sneakers could give less support where needed, especially when it involved lots of walking and could bring about much pain in the end—from shin splints to tightening of shin muscles.
“Cross trainers or shoes that give overall support, especially when pronation is involved, are very important to overall comfort for the road,” said Voisin.
Pronation is the rotation of the feet at the joints that occur during walking or running. Voisin explained the three types of pronation: normal pronation, overpronation and underpronation.
According to Voisin, in normal pronation the outside part of the heel makes initial contact with the ground.
He said the foot rolled inward, about 15 per cent, came in complete contact with the ground and could support your body weight without any problem.
“The rolling in of the foot optimally distributes the forces of impact. This movement is called pronation, and it’s critical to proper shock absorption,” he said.
“At the end of the gait cycle (the way locomotion is achieved using human limbs), you push off evenly from the front of the foot.”
With overpronation, as with the normal pronation sequence, the outside of the heel makes the initial ground contact. However, the foot rolls inward more than the ideal fifteen per cent.
This means the foot and ankle have problems stabilising the body, and shock isn’t absorbed as efficiently. At the end of the gait cycle, the front of the foot pushes off the ground using mainly the big toe and second toe, which then must do all the work, evenly from the front of the foot.
In underpronation, again, the outside of the heel makes initial contact with the ground. But the inward movement of the foot occurs at less than fifteen per cent meaning there is less rolling in than for those with normal or flat feet.
Consequently, forces of impact are concentrated on a smaller area of the foot (the outside part), and are not distributed as efficiently. In the push-off phase, most of the work is done by the smaller toes on the outside of the foot.
Voisin said sneakers were generally safe, especially cross-training shoes or walking shoes, as they gave more of a general support for any type of pronation.
The trainer said heels were a definite no-no and advised those that wanted to wear boots—because they were the look for the season or the band—to buy insoles for support.
Pumped Up Kicks CEO Mya Alexander-Owen also agreed. She has been quietly customising boots, hats and cups for masqueraders but only got to seriously marketing the service this year.
Already, she has had numerous requests and more are expected with the two-day run creeping near.
She said although her customising did not involve creating comfortable boots as it was strictly about embellishing the exterior, she did, however, advise her clients on what kind of boots they should wear or what they could do to make them more comfortable.
To contact Alexander-Owen call 717-7436 /622-4348 or find her on Facebook at this link: https://www.facebook.com/customiseforcarnival.