You guys know I love Carnival, but with the cost being so high and my love for traveling the world being stronger, I haven’t been in a costume since Caribana 2014. In fact, if you told me that I’d be on the Carnival road to play again, let alone in the USA, I probably would have laughed out loud. Somewhat missing the road, I decided to play my first mas in the US at Atlanta Carnival 2022 and it was quite an experience. After a tossup between two bands and talking with friends, I chose Mas with Panache for Atlanta DEKALB Carnival 2022.
Band Registration & Costume Payment
The decision to go to Atlanta Carnival was made in early March. I saw a friend’s Instagram story of her costume and went through the rabbit hole of figuring out dates and researching bands. Not only did my cousin play with this band, but I was also told Mas with Panache was one of the bands in Atlanta with the best customer service. Mas with Panache launched at the end of January and registration lasted until the end of March so I JUST made it. The theme for Mas with Panache for Atlanta Dekalb Carnival 2022 was Riddim 2.0 and I chose the section Ibeji which included a bodysuit and necklace for $340. I loved the fact that this particular costume’s bodysuit sizes ranged from XS-3XL.
Registration for me was a walk in the park. After looking at costumes on Instagram, I went directly to the Mas with Panache site and paid the $170 deposit for my costume. I didn’t know, but there was also the option to pay for the costume in full. I also purchased v-cut fishnet stockings for $30. I paid my final deposit shortly after my birthday trip to SXM carnival in early May.
Costume Pick Up
Five days before the parade and two days before arriving in Atlanta (May 23), Mas with Panache sent an email saying costume distribution was on Thursday, May 26 from 3-10 PM in Snellville, GA. There was also an option available for someone to pick up your costume if you weren’t able to make it. I personally thought three days’ notice and having only one day to pick up wasn’t enough, but I made my way. I didn’t plan on renting a car in Atlanta, but after hearing about the transit system in Gwinnett County and calculating an Uber to be around $100 roundtrip from downtown during rush hour, I opted to drive.
The drive from downtown Atlanta to Snellville was about an hour and thankfully there was no traffic. We were instructed to bring our ID and proof of purchase, but my ID was all that was needed. Being that it was my first time playing with this band, I was both excited and nervous as I didn’t know what to expect. Much to my surprise, the costume pickup process was very smooth and I was in and out in less than 10 minutes from sign-in to distribution. After one of the Mas With Panache reps went through my costume package which included style, size, additional accessories, stockings, and a goodie bag, I signed my release form and drove back downtown.
The Mas with Panache goodie bag was an expandable duffle bag that I used as a personal item on the plane ride home. In addition to placing my costume and accessories, extra items included in the bag were pasties, a Mas with Panache fanny pack and fan, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, a nip sized bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label, Summer’s Eve cleansing wipes, a Mas with Panache mug, drink flask, and two wristbands.
Mas with Panache Road Experience
Since I played alone, I wanted to drink, didn’t want to deal with finding parking, and I’m a responsible adult, I took an Uber from my hotel to the meeting point which was no more than 10 minutes away. The meetup started at 9:30 AM, I got there a little before 10:30 AM, and met with a friend that played in another band before making the way to the Poison Mas and Mas with Panache section. Meeting the band was no issue at all for me and announcements were very clear when it came to instructing masqueraders where to get food, drinks, and assembling before heading out on the road.
Food and Drinks
At costume pickup, I received a lunch, snack, and cup (if needed) chit on my wristband, but nothing was taken from me when presented on the road. I took a few (seriously just one or two) pictures and walked over to the snack area for a veggie patty and the drinks truck for some Johnnie and coke which was my drink choice for the day. On the road, I made sure to grab a bottle of water each time I got a drink because the drinks truck was all the way in the back and I needed to stay hydrated because it was VERY HOT.
One thing that I take very seriously since my first Trinidad Carnival and last carnival in Toronto is security. Living in NYC and having the experience in Caribana, I feel that stormers mess up the carnival road experience. The Atlanta Carnival parade didn’t have an overwhelming amount of spectators along the parade route, but there was also no visible security or band marshalls on the road. There was a large number of stormers towards the end of the parade route and it was just too much for me.
Music & Vibes
The DJ lineup for the band included Miami Dream Team, One Drop Sound, Ovadose, J Smoove, DJ Touches, and DJ Messi. I love hearing the variety of Soca from Trinidad, Grenada, Barbados, St. Lucia, St Vincent, etc, but I just kept hearing the same songs over and over. Being that it was a carnival based in the US and representation of several islands in the band and sidelines were present, I had no problem hearing Kompa and Dancehall on the road, but hearing Ariana Grande and Black Eyed Peas was a BIG NO for me. In addition to playing a better variety from other islands, I would have loved for the DJs to play more 2022 Soca and not the same 3-5 (if they even played that much).
Vibes are different for everyone, but I felt that the majority of the people in my band were there for the costume and not for the love of carnival and soca music.Although I played solo, I found a few “friends” on the road so it made it a little better, but vibes were just different compared to past experiences. I would have to see if I get the same experience another time.
Things that Annoyed me About Atlanta Carnival 2022
Two Carnivals on the Same Day
The FIRST thing I noticed when doing my research for Atlanta Carnival was there were two different parades on the same day about 20 minutes from each other which made absolutely no sense to me. It also brought a lot of confusion for others that were having the Carnival experience in Atlanta for the first time. After seeing that the band I wanted was in Atlanta Dekalb Carnival I just went with that option.
Last Minute Band Switchup
A little less than 3 weeks before the carnival, Mas with Panache along with 5 other big bands from Atlanta Dekalb Carnival made the decision to move to the downtown carnival due to logistical changes and a limited road experience. I didn’t have a hotel picked yet so worked in my favor, but it inconvenienced masqueraders that made plans weeks and months prior. Unfortunately, the Atlanta Dekalb Carnival was canceled hours before the parade and that messed up the experience even more.
Where’s the Stage?
Another confusing part for me at Atlanta Carnival was there being no stage to cross or judging point. I was told there was a stage in the Carnival Village at the park by one person and another told me the bands don’t play to compete. With a short route and no stage to cross, I thought “what are we doing?!” Between the stormers and no stage, I understood why a lot of people flock to Trinidad and other islands and why spectators see Carnival as nothing but a free for all street party.
Where Did Everyone Go?!
One thing that I want to point out was the experience at the end of the parade route. There was an announcement made that lunch was to be at a location and masqueraders were to just find their way there. After speaking to a couple of friends, I made my way to the location but there was nobody there or any updates from the band on social media as to where everyone was going next. At that point, I just went back to my hotel.
A few friends asked if I would play Atlanta Carnival again and the answer is yes. Despite the confusion and disorganization, I want to give it another try. I always try something once, but I also think a good crew is part of the experience. I also would like to attend the fetes as I heard they made the Carnival weekend worth it.
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