On a few occasions, I’ve been a spectator of Jamaica’s carnival road parade, but never gave much thought into joining before last year. After having the idea of going instilled into me by 2 friends who were no longer able to attend, I still wanted to attend. Looking at the associated costs of jumping in the parade, it’s an understatement that I was SHOOK! Buying a 1-day package upwards of $100USD wasn’t a part of the not-yet-existent plan. I tried my luck entering 4 different costume & package giveaways, but had none. With road march day nearing, options were running short. The opportunity arose to volunteer for the pioneers of our carnival, Jamaica Carnival, with less than a week to go!

The Job

Though aware of restrictions (mainly freedom of mobility), being on the road working seemed better than being home hearing the party trucks in the distance. With restrictions for where you can join the parade, and having to consider food & beverages along the way, being a spectator didn’t seem like the ideal option to fully enjoy the experience.

Jamaica Carnival’s band started chippin’ down the road from Hope Gardens at 12pm, marching along Hope Road. With top-notch djs such as Supahype, Kurt Riley, Jumo, and Dj Spice plus performances by Beenie Man, Alison Hinds, Bunji Garlin, Faye-Ann Lyons, and Iwer George, the vibes never stalled!

My role as a marshall mostly involved holding a rope bordering the truck, monitoring persons on the inside of said rope to ensure safety. This role required wearing a specific t-shirt, but that didn’t mean I had to look and feel plain. With simple make up, a few eye-catching accessories, and a dash of fun outfit elements, I was dressed for the festive occasion.

The role in no way meant that one couldn’t enjoy the carnival experience. I shamelessly sang along with every tune while moving to the energizing beats. Everyone was provided at frequent intervals with water and spiked fruit juices as we danced in the afternoon sun.

The Revelling

Dancing in the streets made for one great party throughout the corporate area. The designated lunch stop near the Hope Road – Waterloo intersection, was reached at 4pm. Marshalls, like revellers, were provided with a lunch meal and a short break. After maybe 30 minutes, marshalls had to regain positions around the trucks to anticipate the continuing party.

Marching along Waterloo Road, turning onto South Avenue then Constant Spring Road, we jammed up until 8pm. The parade ended with a huge street dance engulfing the Half Way Tree town centre. Popular soca and dancehall music played, infecting the massive crowd with newfound energy to show off all their moves.

I would love to do road march again next year, whether as a reveller or a marshall. The experience is one you’d have to have first-hand to fully appreciate; photos and stories don’t capture just how grand the occasion is.

Carnival in Jamaica started in 1990, when a group of revelers couldn’t make their usual trip to Trinidad for the festivities and decided to bring it home. This movement was started by the late music pioneer Byron Lee, and has since grown exponentially, with this year’s Kingston road parade including a record 4 bands: Jamaica Carnival, Bacchanal Jamaica, Xaymaca International, and Xodus Carnival. This is Jamaica Carnival’s second year #BackPonDiRoad after a 8-year hiatus following Mr. Lee’s death in 2008.

NB: Jamaica Carnival was the most pocket-friendly option

My Look

P.S. I was so surprised my amateur makeup endured the sweat throughout the day!

In order of use, here’s what’s behind my simple carnival make-up:

  • Face Primer
  • Foundation
  • Oil Blocking Powder
  • Gold Eye Pencil
  • Black Eye Pencil
  • Lip Stain using a burgundy lip liner
  • ‘Chocolat Frosting’ Lipstick
  • Setting Spray

Let me know your carnival experience(s) in the comments!