Over the years, the spectators in downtown Port-of-Spain for J’Ouvert have been dwindling. This year, those crowds seemed even smaller.
However, Port-of-Spain Mayor Chinua Alleyne says the corporation is now looking at transformation measures for the J’Ouvert.
Before the start of the revelry at 4 am, there was a heavy police presence which saw the number of law enforcement officers outnumbering members of the public.
Several checks were also conducted by police officers at City Gate, to ensure people coming into the city were abiding by the law.
J’Ouvert started with the merry monarch and the traditional masqueraders coming to the venue, where they performed to a very small crowd on the pavement and less than 10 people seated in the Lord Kitchener Stand.
Speaking to the media yesterday morning, Mayor Alleyne admitted there was room for transformation.
“There is always space for us to do some reform and there is always space for us to do some renewal,” he said.
The mayor said the corporation has already initiated the transformation with a city tourism project and a brand-new steelpan competition on Carnival Monday called Panamania.
“This is to encourage all steelbands to come downtown for this new competition. It is an open competition, and we are in collaboration with all the stakeholders to keep the mas and Carnival alive in downtown Port-of-Spain.
The old mas competition introduced three new categories: most comical, most humorous, and most creative.”
André Villaruel, who portrayed West Indies Force Ah Win, won the king of J’Ouvert.
Villaruel, from Marbella, was elated after finally getting the crown, having been competing for over 30 years.
“I have been placed 2nd and 3rd for lots of years but I have never won in thirty years. I have always loved J’Ouvert and after it is finished, that is the end of my Carnival.
“It’s a group of us that work together on creating the characters based on the burning topics, within the country,” he explained.
The Queen of J’Ouvert was Laverne Smith, a 24-year-old San Fernando resident with her portrayal I Could do De Wuk. She said she hopes her win can motivate younger ones to celebrate traditional old mas.
“It needs to be revamped, I think the mayor, and they are doing a very good job, but it needs to be revamped because feathers and frills can only go so far, this is our history,” Smith lamented.
The revelry then commenced as J’Ouvert mas bands crossed the stage.
Veteran Carnival masmaker Chris Humphrey, who brought back his J’Ouvert band, titled A Tribute to Chris Humphrey & Associates, after a hiatus, said the essence of J’Ouvert is being lost.
“J’Ouvert is not only supposed to be about mud, powder paint alone. I aim to get the younger folks involved in the celebrations. Not just the bath suit, we want them to portray stuff,” Humprey said.
He added that if the history of J’Ouvert is not preserved, 15 years from now it will be no more.
Also crossing the judging point were Panorama champions Massy All Stars and bp Renegades.
Several spectators who the Guardian Media spoke to expressed concern about the dwindling numbers, but they all said they felt this was because of the crime situation and the fact that traditional mas was dying out.
However, two young spectators said it was their first year coming to the celebrations and were impressed to see the ole mas portrayals.