If you are a Carnival Junky then you look at each Carnival much like parents look at their children...... you appreciate & value them for their unique traits and yet you also appreciate their commonalities too. You may not ever verbalize it to their face that you may have different expectations for them or acknowledge one as “smarter/better/etc” than another --- you know there’s a difference but you love them all.
We can all acknowledge Trinidad’s Carnival as the Mecca of all Carnivals, and there are others throughout the islands that are d*#@ good ...... some would say they are creeping up on overtaking it – maybe not for “overall experience” yet, but definitely “bang for your buck” (ummm we see you Jamaica making gains faster than Bolt/Blake/Powell on a 4x100) – and then there’s the Carnivals where the Caribbean Massive have spread across the globe.
Calendar wise – following TT, JA, SXM , a hop a cross to Berlin we've now got the U.S. cities getting in the mix with Atlanta and Orlando both Memorial Day Weekend (different road march days but seriously – couldn’t we figure out a way not to have them on the same weekend?)
Much like we’ve observed the expansion of certain Carnivals naturally (not too long ago for JA Carnival if you made it to Blocko, Sunnation Breakfast Fete & Bazodee you had a “full” schedule and were good --- now you literally can go from Easter Saturday in Ochi all the way through a full week to Road March Sunday in Kingston and hit multiple fetes every day) well, we’re starting to see that happen in other locations across the U.S.
Atlanta Carnival used to be little more than a few trucks on de road for no more than 3 hours and maybe 1 or 2 fetes that you’d consider no more than a glorified good “normal weekend”. Well, this year we’ve got no less than 33 fetes scheduled from Wednesday-Monday of Memorial weekend. I won’t sugarcoat and say they are all epic (by the way that word has been so overused lately to describe every fete that it basically is like crying wolf at this point).
Just as in larger Carnival locations, like Trinidad, Atlanta is growing to have a wide variety of experiences to choose from, you have options if you’d like and there are a handful of staple events that have strong support & thankfully some newcomers that are looking to fill the void in the calendar or offer alternative experiences.
There is 1 fete that truly starts off Atlanta Carnival – it’s the only one where bands & crews alike will come reppin’ hard with unique themes & no matter which road march (yes, you read that right – Atlanta has 2 road marches going on at the same time on the same day in different location ..... just know, I’m advising you to head to Decatur on Covington Highway to catch all of the best bands) – EVERYONE goes to Demolition Crew’s Cooler Fete.
Some have called it the fete “where Styrofoam goes to die”, honestly it’s hilarious to see the carnage of Styrofoam coolers that have been crushed by the time the sun rises. Others will simply say – it’s won Atlanta’s award as “Best Fete” year after year with literally thousands of revelers in attendance with DJ’s and artists from around the globe.
Atlanta has a new set of fetes hitting the scene, especially with new ones filling the early morning, mid-day & evening of Friday – I’ll be interested to see how it plays out with a new breakfast fete Friday morning – an indoor/outdoor rooftop day fete – and at least 5 fetes competing against each other. One thing that confuses out of towners is the “J’Ouvert” Friday night – if you bring paint & powda you’ll be sadly disappointed because while it carries the name “J’Ouvert” it’s actually a concert in one of the larger clubs. I pray for the day we’re able to have a “proper” J’ouvert outdoors that’s well attended. There are multiple powda & paint fetes held leading up to and actually after road march, but if you have your mindset of what happens in the islands you’ll leave scratching your head.
Sunday morning this year will be an evolution of a fete that has grown year after year – Sunday Morning Breakfast Party. Years ago it was basically started as 50-100 people liming at an industrial loading dock and progressed on to one of the most attended fetes – where people came to be seen, yet still get on bad. This year, it will become the 1st ALL-INCLUSIVE Breakfast Fete in Atlanta (eh, dat may not seem like much to some but it’s beautiful to see progress here & remember US liquor laws have played havoc even when well established promoters have attempted all-inclusive’s at Miami Carnival (which is why even big brands like Vail, Soca Brainwash, & Tribe do chit systems/cash bars in MIA).
Beyond that we’re looking at a mixture of well-established local promoters (transplants from Trinidad, Jamaica, Grenada, etc) combining to add more booze cruises Sunday & Monday at Lake Lanier (about 1 hr north of Atlanta) as well as other fetes – like Sunday evening the staple “Wear White” fete will be in place as well as a new option from PartyAnimalz Carnival Edition, which I have a feeling will be more of a JA Carnival vibe with a mixture of Dancehall & Reggae sprinkled in with the Soca.
No matter what you’re looking for (and I understand that people may believe I’m bias as I live in Atlanta) but if you’re in the U.S. for Memorial Day Weekend I do not see you having a chance at a better variety of Soca/Carnival Junky options with 33+ fetes to choose from plus road march, numerous live performances from dozens of major Soca artists. Especially on a modest budget in the grand scheme of Carnivals & mix in the chance for some southern Soul Food (trust ATL does breakfast, brunch & fried chicken well) & a late night run to Waffle House (ATL’s equivalent to Trinis running to KFC after a fete) – Welcome to Atlanta!
See You On De Road,