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The 'official' commencement of the festival

Terry Joseph
January 27, 2002

FOR most Carnival lovers, today signals the "official" commencement of the festival.

The top 33 conventional steel orchestras in Trinidad and Tobago square off for 11 available places against reigning champions Exodus in the final round of the Panorama competition at the Queen's Park Savannah.

Dubbed the Savannah Party, today's round begins at 1 pm. Pan Trinbago is predicting a smooth flow of bands with "the best quality music available at this time", according to pan boss Patrick Arnold.

From yesterday, pan music aficionados began preparing for the event, the first major activity at the Queen's Park Savannah for Carnival 2002 and for many, the start of a countdown to the adult Parade of the Bands, which brings the festival to a climax on February 11 and 12.

Some of their long-standing traditions have been curtailed. This time pan fans will have to settle for regulation size coolers (maximum 30"x24") and avoid carrying bottled beverage-all for security reasons. Parking arrangements are also different from seasons past, with a tariff of $15 being applied upon entry to the Savannah.

The National Carnival Commission (NCC), custodians of the Savannah venue, is offering an enhanced aesthetic through the courtesy of Royal Bank, which has undertaken the decoration of approaches to the Grand Stand and other areas at an advertised cost of some $125,000.

Having declared this edition of the festival a tribute to the traditional King Sailor portrayal, a 15-foot high representation will be mounted outside the Grand Stand. Flambeaux and waterworks are to be included as the season progresses.

In the concourse under the Grand Stand, a display tantamount to a mini Carnival museum has been installed, featuring depictions of traditional costumes and festival history, with pictures ranging from the Lorry Mas of 1932, through Esther Theodore's winning Queen of Carnival costume Cleopatra from 1962 to latter day portrayals.

Special care is being taken to ensure reserved seating remains available only to those who booked or bought such tickets and new gates installed at the Grand Stand are being depended upon to help increase control of access and egress.

On-stage bands will each play for ten minutes their calypso of choice, enhanced by variations and interludes that often provide additional triggers for an audience expected to top 15,000. At noon yesterday, a steady flow of ticket purchasers coursed through Pan Trinbago's Ariapita Avenue offices, indicating a bumper patronage.

Participating bands have agreed to a number of punitive devices to ensure a swifter process. Bands are required to be in the holding bay east of the stage when the previous participant is performing, or lose five points in lieu.

Any steelband not proceeding to the judging area upon receiving the signal will be fined $2,000 and one point for each minute of further delay. The same applies to bands refusing to move quickly offstage at the end of their performances.

For the first time, no payment for transportation will accrue to bands, a saving to Pan Trinbago of some $1.5 million. The elimination process that in years previous brought a larger number of bands to the Savannah has been side-stepped by panyard judging at the preliminary stage, an activity that brought thousands of pan fans to the yards during the past week.

From the agreed panel of judges, a group of seven shall be selected by ballot immediately preceding today's playoffs, with two additional adjudicators kept in the line-up to serve as alternates in the event their services are required as replacements.

In all cases, the highest and lowest marking for each band shall be discarded. Arrangement and general performance will each attract 40 points, with tone and rhythm equally sharing the remainder.

Top favourite among the bands is Hollis Wright's "Music for the Soul", which is being played by five orchestras. De Fosto's "Firestorm" and "The Mecca" have, in the sum, secured four plays, while newcomer Natalie Yorke, singing Len "Boogsie" Sharpe's "Do What You Want" will be heard three times, as will Eunice Peters' "Colours", Preacher's "Dulahin" and songs sung by Tunapuna Scanty.

Tickets priced at $80 and $100 will be available at the gates from 11 a.m, two hours before showtime.

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