It occurred to me last night that many of you masqueraders would not have had experienced the Savannah Stage since the last year of the stage’s existence was in 2006. In fact I know several persons who have been to Trinidad Carnival every year since then but never had the opportunity to experience for themselves the much lauded euphoria that is the Savannah Stage .
Since I have received questions regarding the stage from “stage virgins”, I think it is time for The Savannah Stage 101, a series of tips and advice to those of you who may not have yet been introduced to the “Big Yard”. If I missed out anything or you have a question about the stage, leave me a comment:
1. The Savannah Stage is basically the home of every major event that takes place for Trinidad Carnival. This is where Steel Bands meet in a battle of steel to decide who wins Panorama, where the first rhythm section pulsates in the North Stand. It is where Kings and Queens of Bands display their costumes and Calypsonians pit wit against each other for title of Monarch. And finally this is the grand showcase for Carnival Monday and Tuesday where frenzied masqueraders, pent up and waiting for hours, finally break free to play their mas with wild abandon for the spectators in the stands and camera men; an exhibitionist’s paradise.
North Stand on the left, Grand Stand on the right
2. On either side of the stage it is flanked by the Grand and North Stands. Upon entering the Savannah there is a ramp leading up to the stage where masqueraders, held back by security, wait their section’s turn to parade in front of the judges on the stage. Once it is your turn to cross the stage security will let you through, where you will go running like a banshee out of hell. Everyone does the run, don’t ask me why.
3. Yes, the stage is elevated, I would approximate 4 feet high and 200 yards long. Hope you have stamina because there is no chipping on the stage.. at.. all!
Note the elevation from the side of the stage
4. No, the stage has never collapsed in the history of there being a stage, unlike the mishap that happened with a stage on another Island! The stage has the capacity to withstand serious jamming by thousands of masqueraders not to mention it needs to be able to support the Steel Bands as well, so don’t worry you have permission to misbehave on stage.
The Stage brings out acrobatic performances
5 Each section of a band has a limited amount of time to cross the stage as the band also has a time limit for all sections to cross. To maximize this time crossing the stage you have to keep moving, making sure to wine across every inch of space. Once your time is up security will usher you off the stage while the next section comes on. If you are slick, as many have done, and can escape security you can head back, join the section crossing and cross again.. and again… and again!
Security ushering a section off the stage
6. Music trucks pass to the side of the stage and once you cross the stage you join up with the rest of the band, trucks and music before exiting the Savannah in the vicinity of Stanmore Avenue. The band will be a jumbled mess until you regroup but you will be way too sad that your time on stage was too short to care.
Masqueraders exiting the stage
7. The first band crosses the stage at around 9AM, usually at this time the stands are empty with only the judges and TV cameras on hand to witness the event. Trust me I have crossed stage as the first band in my days with Harts and while it was nice to be ahead of the congestion crossing sober to empty stands was is a totally different experience after you have been waiting for hours and had way too much scotch! The last band crosses stage at night, ideally you would like to cross stage when the sun is up but with so many bands waiting to cross someone has to cross last. The amazing thing is no matter what time of day or night, once you hit that stage you attack it with gusto, finding the energy even after a long day on the road.
TRIBE crossing the stage at night
8. Which brings me to the point of congestion entering the Savannah and preparation for a long wait. As much fun as it is crossing the Savannah stage there are some caveats and one is that you may end up waiting for hours for the experience. Imagine the size of some bands with thousands of masqueraders, numerous sections and each section taking even 5 minutes to cross and you can easily estimate a mega-large band will take over an hour to cross the stage. In between the large bands you have mini, small and medium bands making the crossing as well. Lets just say lots of bands means lots of waiting. If you are lucky and your band gets to the Savannah early without being stuck behind a mega-large band, your wait will not be too long, in any case standing in one spot and drinking for hours builds up the anxiety that you will need to give you the adrenalin boost wine across that stage non stop.
Waiting to enter the Savannah
9. If you are averse to the hierarchy of section order when parading before the judges please note that this order is strictly enforced when crossing the stage. Individuals are followed by frontline and then the rest of the section. If you determine that this hierarchy is utter rubbish, good luck trying to convince the security that you need them to unlink their arms to allow you to cross the stage first! By the way Divas, there is no posing on stage… jump.. throw your hands in the air and wave! No time to stop, parade the whole stage, spot the cameras and enjoy your 10 minutes of fame!
note security keeping the rest of the section at bay behind them
10. Believe the hype, crossing the Savannah Stage is the BEST FEELING IN THE WORLD! Well, apart from wining the million dollar lottery!