Four decade old multi-cultural Carnival of St. Maarten sizzles strong after all this time
Known by many as the best Carnival experience in the North Eastern Caribbean, the 2012 festival season on the Dutch side of St. Maarten proved to be a pleasant collision of cultures. This year’s edition offered nothing short of vibrant, colourful parades, the very best of local cultural shows and pageants, highly entertaining international concerts and a perfect opportunity for locals and foreigners to mix with each other and explore new cultures.
This annual occurrence has been the island’s largest cultural event for the past 42 years and is organized by the St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF).
The Divi Little Bay Resort and surrounding Phillipsburg accommodations served the as relaxation points for many of the festival’s newbie aficionados as well as seasoned Carnival connoisseurs. However, all observers and participants alike converged day and night in the main centre of action also known as the “Carnival Village” for a one of a kind cultural buffet.
The St. Maarten Carnival Village, which is transformed into the region’s largest restaurant, features booths with samplings of cuisine from each of the near 80 nationalities that call St. Maarten home and is also the literal hotspot for all the major concerts and pageants. Over this year’s 2 week Carnival period, visitors to the village enjoyed several forms of entertainment which included Calypso Competitions, Youth and Teen Extravaganzas, Speech and Culture Wear Competitions, a Ms. Mature Queen Pageant and world class concerts which showcased top Soca, Latin and Zouk performers.
Much like several other regional Carnival celebrations, the Jouvert revelry set the pace and built excitement for the main costumed parades. However, it must be noted than unlike some regional and international Carnivals, St. Maarten’s parade had a smooth flow of mas bands (before and after judging points) and each mas band boasted music trucks with full live brass bands which performed a variety of genres.
Also, it is evident that a high level of order was present as even though the costumed bands were not roped off from the public, non-masqueraders chose to remain on the sidelines as opposed to invading the ‘costumed zones’.
Additionally, every band had a choreographed routine which they executed seamlessly at each judging point.
The End of St. Maarten’s Carnival is marked with the symbolic burning of King Moumou, a straw-stuffed effigy who annually presides over the whole festive affair