District's Caribbean Carnival Marks 17th Year This Weekend

By Lystra Lashley
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, June 25, 2009

The District's Caribbean Carnival will celebrate its 17th anniversary this weekend. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is scheduled to serve as grand marshal of the festival's parade, which will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at Georgia and Missouri avenues.

The parade is known for its color, glitter and music, as participants in elaborate costumes dance to calypso, soca and steelpan music. Carnival events will continue through Sunday.

"The festival has come a long way," said Franklyn Boynes, a resident of Silver Spring for more than 35 years and veteran designer and creator of the parade costumes.

"A great deal of craftsmanship, experience, sleepless nights and patience go into several months of planning, designing and preparing for the Washington, D.C., Caribbean festival," he said. This year, Boynes is lending a hand to Caribe, an arts-in-education organization on Allentown Road in Fort Washington, as it prepares a presentation "D'Price is Gold."

D.C. residents and visitors got their first taste of the festival during the summers of 1976, '77 and '78. Events were organized by a group of Trinidadians who had recently settled in Washington and wanted to showcase the artistry and talents of Caribbean culture. For 1977 and '78, then-Mayor Walter Washington signed a proclamation naming the festival Caribbean American Day.

After the initial success, the festival fell on hard times, and it was discontinued because of a lack of sponsorship.

In 1992, a few Trinidadian academics and professionals founded the D.C. Caribbean Carnival, a not-for-profit community-based organization that relaunched the festival. With support from the D.C. government, businesses and community-based organizations, the festival has evolved to include all nationalities in the Caribbean diaspora. It is modeled after the annual Carnival celebration in Trinidad and Tobago.

"Carnival is a labor of love," said Earl Holder of Clinton. He is one of the founding members of Caribe and the chief costume designer.

"Many times I ask myself, 'Should I do this again?' " he said. "We spend thousands of dollars just to participate in this annual festival."

Holder added: "I feel a sense of accomplishment by watching the masqueraders enjoy themselves as their colorful costumes -- gold, silver, green, red and other vibrant colors -- dazzle in the sunshine and feathers on their headpieces move as the wind blows.

"Carnival is much more than a parade," he said. "It is therapeutic, educational and a celebration of togetherness for all."

Events will be held from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Benjamin Banneker Park in Barry Place. A $10 admission fee will grant access to music, Caribbean cuisine and live performances. For more information, see http://www.dccaribbeancarnival.org or call 202-726-2204.

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