Nature is absolutely healing as carnivals have been coming back and being announced with a vengeance; I personally plan to attend a few. Atlanta Carnival kicked off my carnival season, as their carnival took place on Memorial Weekend so it was pretty easy to attend. I chose a band, as I’d heard We Kinda Ting Mas (WKTMAS) was one of the best bands in Atlanta. Vaval Carnival, a traveling fete experience, also announced they would be hosting their Kooler and Vaval Road events so that also helped with my decision making.
Now you may be shocked but yes Atlanta has a carnival, two of them. There is the Atlanta Caribbean Carnival, which I attended and Atlanta-Dekalb Carnival. While there, Atlanta-DeKalb Carnival was cancelled due to the council’s inability to secure a security permit for the event.
WHERE I PARTIED
There was a lot going on, as it was Memorial Weekend but it was not my intention to tire myself out so I took it easy for the most part. The first event attended was Vaval’s Kooler. This was a cooler fete so you could pretty much determine how drunk you wanted to be based on the amount of alcohol you brought in with you. My girl Nikki looked out and made sure I was able to get champagne tipsy at Kooler.
The venue seemed to be some sort of industrial park yard. Upon walking in, most of the crowd stood outside vibing and grooving to the DJ’s prompts. Just as we were about to catch a vibe, there was an announcement of a noise complaint; the music then stops for about 20 minutes and we’re standing around talking (definitely a vibe killer). The crowd is then instructed to move inside so that the noise can be limited to just that area of the venue. Eventually, DJs and others were able to set up and get the party started again but the build up was much slower as the vibe had been killed by moving the crowd and having to restart the party.
On Sunday, I passed through Rum Punch Brunch, an Atlanta brunch staple event. This event took place at Believe Music Hall, a multi-purpose venue that was packed to capacity. So much so, the fire marshall was inside letting organizers know that no more people could enter or the party would be shut down.
As we walked through, I saw food vendors, hookah and other games to partake in. While dancehall and reggae played inside, soca and afro beats boomed outside. I was able to enjoy both but had most of my fun outside. (there was more space for dancing).
Vaval Road was my last event for the long weekend and that’s the event where I had the most fun. Give me a music truck and vibes and I am happy. The event begun late due to weather and I wish we could have actually been on the road but it was a fun time.
THE WE KINDA TING EXPERIENCE – COSTUME REGISTRATION
From registration to costume pickup, communication was seamless. The band did an excellent job regarding updates via social media. I did see some comments about responsiveness via email but I’m sure they eventually took care of them. I was able to DM a few times with questions and a @wktmas associate was always responsive.
The WKT Mas pickup was located at a Doubletree Hilton. When you walked in, one associate checked you in and then each section had signage, you were able to walk up and get processed by section. I arrived around 8PM, there were no more than 10 masqueraders picking up costumes so I was able to be seen and checked out within 40 minutes. There was one young lady ahead of me picking up about 8 costumes for others so she’s partly responsible for why it took 40 minutes instead of 20 minutes.
Veteran Tip – always, always try on your costume at mas camp or ask any questions about sizing, trying to coordinate this after an associate has signed you out is a nightmare.
My @wktmas costume looked exactly as advertised and I loved the color and gem work. There were Caribbean regional treats in my wktmas duffle bag, some feminine products and my fave, a miss dior sample parfum.
It’s now carnival day! I woke up bright and early and tried to have breakfast but I was too anxious thinking about being on time and battling Atlanta traffic. As I start my carnival makeup, there’s an update that Atlanta DeKalb Carnival has been cancelled. The news broke the night before apparently but I was too busy trying to have fun at Vaval Kooler so I was unaware.
While I was not a patron of the cancelled carnival, the cancellation did impact the downtown carnival as thousands of people who would have been going to another event were now packed into the downtown space. Some bands were gracious enough to absorb the masqueraders from other bands. WeKindaTing absorbed Entice Mas for the day so that Entice masqueraders were still able to enjoy their mas experience.
Festival organizer Patricia Henry admitted the 35th annual carnival got out of hand. She claimed the last minute cancellation of DeKalb’s Caribbean Festival brought extra guests and extra problems to their event, which was permitted to have 2,000 attendees.
We were road bound late so by the time we arrived the band had moved off but we eventually caught up with them. There was a sea of beautiful feathers and masqueraders with a booming music truck and refreshment trucks when I arrived on a beautiful route. While I don’t think liquor is openly given in bands, water, juices and rum punch were flowing. WKT Mas gave out Chick Fil A sandwiches for lunch. As a non meat eater, I only got chips and snacks (unsure if non meat options ran out or there was never any but I was certainly hungry).
Just as we were starting to go into level pace 3, the band turned into Central Park and the music stopped around 3:40pm. I was actually shocked that the road had concluded so early. Masqueraders were instructed to use one entrance while spectators were sent to another. I am not sure where the communication or implementation process broke down but it was so chaotic trying to get into the park. I had been pushed and shoved by both spectators, masqueraders and police park men while trying to enter the park.
By the time I had gotten into the park, my experience had been a bit soured. Once inside, there were food vendors on the surrounding areas of the park while the stage was centered. I was disappointed that there were no shade tents or band assigned tented areas for masqueraders within the park. The park experience began around 4PM, which means the Hotlanta sun was ablaze, not making for a very pleasant experience. (There were ample trees for shade surrounding the park however)
While I had a great time with WKTMas and loved my costume, I felt like my whole weekend was confusing. From venue noise complaints or the lack of officers to secure venues or even the last minute cancellation of another carnival. I am unsure if Atlanta is to be blamed, perhaps the city officials don’t care for this Caribbean experience or the organizers but there is so much room for improvement)
I also saw complaints from Atlanta residents. Old Fourth Ward Residents (near where the carnival concluded) event complained about the mess left behind. They told FOX 5 Atlanta that traffic in the area was also a mess and they were disgusted to find festival goers urinating on their property.
“We had tons of trash, we had no way to get in and out of our property, we had people peeing and doing other things on our property,” resident Jennifer Spivey
We have to remember the United States is not home to carnival nor Caribbean culture and the slightest inconvenience to the American way of life will cause these events to receive negative pushback or be cancelled all together.
In short, this was an interesting experience, and despite it’s challenges, many found a way to continue having fun. There was also a sense of community at this carnival. Whether it be the patience displayed by masqueraders with the merged bands, the vibe and motivation exuding from DJs or the helpful faces that would help me (or any masquerader) with my carnival costume. Until the next carnival.
Yours in Mas,