D.C. Police Bring a Quick Halt to Carnival
Barrington M. Salmon | 6/29/2011, 11:21 a.m.
Masqueraders made full use of mud, glitter, black tar, a rainbow of feathers, finely tailored costumes, mismatched clothing and an assortment of riotous gear. Moko Jumbies, the fabled stilt walkers, wowed the crowd. Onlookers and participants alike lustily belted out the words to the music, others mouthed the lyrics and more than a few bystanders joined the crowd behind the trucks as if mesmerized by the music and spectacle unfolding before them.
Adia Brown, 39, wearing a thick coat of red mud as a member of the Mud Band, pranced up and down the street jumping into the midst of each passing ensemble.
"This is my mini-start to Trinidad's Carnival," she said. "I've been doing this for six years in Trinidad and two years here. I enjoy the music and dancing and splashing mud on people. They're scared when they see me."
"You want some mud?" she asked before wrapping her arms around an unsuspecting onlooker and daubing fingers of mud on his face.
"I'm not even Trini, I'm African American and I go to Carnival every year," said Brown, as she ran to join another troupe.
Kristen Jefferson's face, arms and upper body splashed with liberal amounts of red and blue paint resembled a paint job gone awry. Her curly afro, undershirt and denim shorts didn't escape the paint either.
"I enjoy getting dirty, I got dirty and I plan to do it again next year," said the Texan who now lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.
It was Amber Antonelli's first Carnival and the Tampa, Fla., transplant said she expected and found "a lot of dancing and good food."
"I just moved here and my friends told me I should come and check it out," the 22-year-old said. "So far, I've found mangoes."
That this 19th annual Carnival came off at all was a miracle. Despite the fact that the Carnival brings as many as 500,000 people to the District of Columbia, each year, the Carnival Committee has struggled to attract sponsors and raise money. It has not helped this year that a stagnant economy has meant less money available from the District government, sponsors and local businesses.
In the months before the event, which always falls on the last weekend of June, District officials pressed the Carnival Committee to pay off the balance of expenses incurred from last year's events. The final cost in 2010 was about $240,000 for the Metropolitan Police Department's overtime and other expenses. Of that amount, Executive Director Loughton Sargeant said in an earlier WI interview, $53,000 remained outstanding.
A compromise reached between both parties led to city officials cutting the parade route by 1.5 miles in return for deferring the amount owed. So this year, instead of kicking off on Missouri Avenue in Northwest, the parade began at Kansas Avenue.
The combination of a shortened route, the treatment police are alleged to have meted out to street vendors and others, plus the way they hustled the floats, rankled a number of Carnival officials and bystanders. Hours after the event's end, people still fumed.