By Gemma Handy
One of the country’s most popular Carnival-linked events will return to the city of St John’s this Saturday.
The high-energy T-Shirt Mas’ parade – traditionally held as a precursor to the official annual celebrations – will once again see participants ‘chipping’ in the city centre’s streets on July 23.
The news was confirmed a day after the Ministry of Creative Industries, which is in charge of the festivities, sent out a press release informing revellers that while the main parades would be in the city, T-Shirt Mas’ would adhere to a new out-of-town route around the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.
Previous plans to move all the parades, including those on Carnival Monday and Tuesday, out of the city centre had invoked a mixed response.
While police said the move would ease traffic congestion and be easier to manage, some revellers felt the new route was too long while street vendors who usually ply their trade along the way feared a loss in sales.
T-Shirt Mas’ had initially been axed from this year’s Carnival line-up altogether, amid plans for scaled-back activities in a bid to curtail Covid infections. Unique to Antigua, the much-loved warm-up parade offers a more affordable way to participate than traditional mas’ which can mean shelling out big bucks for the flamboyant costumes.
Among those lauding the return of T-Shirt Mas’ to the capital was Janna Henry, lead designer with the Insane troupe.
“We welcome the return of T-Shirt Mas’ to the original route for a number of reasons,” she told Observer yesterday. “Firstly, it’s great for viewing opportunities; spectators have more vantage points to watch.
“Also, the vendors that support themselves through Carnival activities have a great opportunity to maintain their income.
“Finally, the city has a charm. It has an identity like the Savannah in Trinidad and we love it. We are fully in support of the move back to the city,” Henry added.
Soca star Tian Winter, founder of the Icons troupe, was rather more ambivalent on the route change, telling Observer, “It doesn’t bother me either way”.
Government spokesman Lionel Hurst yesterday confirmed all Carnival-related festivities would be in the capital as usual.
And Prime Minister Gaston Browne told Observer that Cabinet had decided against staging any events at the cricket stadium, “unless a compelling case is made and the Cabinet reconsiders its decision”.
On Saturday, PM Browne hit out at the Ministry of Creative Industries’ distribution of Friday’s press release which had erroneously informed the public that T-Shirt Mas’ would be out of town.
“It seems as though there’s some higher power in the ministry because the Cabinet was very clear,” he said on his weekly radio show.
“Instructions were given that the Carnival celebrations should be in St John’s and that the suggestion of the new route going up to the Sir Viv stadium should be scrapped. So whoever put out that press release knew exactly what to do and I want to remind that higher power they’re not higher than the Cabinet,” he added.
Minister for Creative Industries Michael Browne did not respond to Observer’s request for comment. But remarks by Information Minister Melford Nicholas at last Thursday’s post-Cabinet press briefing suggested that Minister Browne had been of the view that the new route would have been easier for police to manage.
Official Carnival celebrations kick off on July 27 with an opening ceremony, followed by the Jaycees Caribbean Queen Show that night.