Heat in the Street

By Rory Daley
Observer writer

Like the Roman theme defined by their 2019 motto Invictus, Bacchanal Jamaica burst on to the streets of the Corporate Area yesterday with colour and excitement as this year’s carnival season came to an end.

Dressed in the bright colours and eye-popping designs the revellers marched to the beat of the season’s soca favourites much to the wonder of spectators lining the sidewalks.

What was noticeable was the large contingent of costumed revellers who have come in from overseas. This was confirmed by Bacchanal Jamaica director Michael McMorris.

“What we’ve found is that there is a huge overseas expansion in the interest in carnival in Jamaica. It used to be where we were catering only to the local crowd and trying to build carnival. All of a sudden the Diaspora has discovered that carnival [here] is good value versus Trinidad, so we have a Trini-Jamaica Diaspora which has just exploded in the local carnival product,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

McMorris’s words supported those of Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, who stated that Carnival in Jamaica last year saw 51,384 tourists enter the country to partake in Carnival last April. That number represented a 12.4 per cent increase over the same period in 2017. While Bacchanal Jamaica had no hard figures for 2019 McMorris pointed out that his company had sold out their event four weeks in advance.

“We’re seeing huge numbers from overseas. I would say that our band is now 70 per cent overseas,” he added.

This was easy to see as flags of the various Caribbean nations were used as fashion accessories. Even those like Karen Reynolds from Miami, Florida, were was keen to fly the flag of her original home, Jamaica.

“First of all, the Bacchanal costumes tend to represent woman and that power, so this is why I choose to wear their costumes and jump mas with them. This year was excellent,” she said.
This is her tenth time back for carnival and she has promised to return again in 2020.

Mirroring her experience were the pair of Trevene Condell, another visiting Jamaican, and her Haitian friend Hollanda Charles.

McMorris didn’t shy away from the fact that there was now competition in the carnival space, lauding the rival entities for helping to improve the quality of the product.

“The truth is the quality of the carnival has gotten better. There are many more bands. There used to be just us, now with other bands the competition is making us all sharper.”

Due to this, at the start of the season Bacchanal Jamaica had shifted its goals from being the biggest band to being the best at delivering a road march experience.

“We adjusted our numbers to work with the expansion, and we’re very proud of the numbers.”

It was still a sizeable crowd that hit the road under the Bacchanal Jamaica banner. By the time the band hit the prime viewing corridor, Trafalgar to Waterloo roads, with the heaving mass of colourful costumed patrons dancing up a storm to the latest soca hits bystanders could get the full effect. It all hit critical mass on Constant Spring Road as the large following went from watching to joining in on the fun.

“We had a great year on the road. We had a great year with the parties. Everything has expanded, we’re very happy.”