Rishi Sankar: Ah Trini Travelogue

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Carnival Fete Planning 101

[Updated with questions from LP – NOv 18th, 2010}

This seems to be a VERY popular topic with tourists travelling to Trinidad for Carnival.

First of all, there are some common phrases and definitions that need to be explained to truly understand

If you go to all of the many sites in outlining parties or fetes in Trinidad, you will see a variety of terms and locations used for event planning. So let’s start with a description of the variety of parties you will find, the demographics expected and associated protocols and behaviours expected from yourselves and from patrons. As a disclaimer this is just the honest opinion of one person and associated people who party likewise with tourists in Trinidad.

Types of Fetes in Trinidad.

If you go to all of the many sites in outlining parties or fetes in Trinidad, you will see a variety of terms and locations used for event planning. So let’s start with a description of the variety of parties you will find, the demographics expected and associated protocols and behaviours expected from yourselves and from patrons. As a disclaimer this is just the honest opinion of one person and associated people who party likewise with tourists in Trinidad.

1. All Inclusive

What this means is that you pay one price for the ticket and all your drinks are catered for. For the price of the ticket, you will get all your rum & cokes, Beers (Carib or Stag), Coolers ( Shandy Carib, and other Barcardi like wine coolers) for free. Now of course, when drinking at these parties, the main block to you getting absolutely smashed beyond belief, is actually the number of bartenders who are serving, if you are a hot female and your ability to push people out of the way. If you are a forceful pushy type of person, you should be fine, although the bartenders/servers who are paid basically minimum wage in Trinidad i.e 10 TT ( 1.70 US) an hour wont rush to serve you. Now having worked in bar in Trinidad before, people know that only tourists TIP, but that being said… here is a trick I have taught many foreigners who I have met in Trinidad

This trick can be applied at any fete and I guarantee you that you will get AMAZING service and your bartender will ignore everyone and serve you, even if you are in the back of the line… they will ‘sight’ you and call you over first. Of course this sounds like logic but it needs to be said, since people dont know protocol

TIP #1
Go for your first drink at the bar and you will see how bad the service can be at one of these fete like GirlPower, Poison All Inclusive etc, take note of the bartenders and the one who is friendliest, call them over… just say ‘aye, you over there, nice boy/girl, come here nah’ – now of course this works only if you have a trini accent, but if you’re a foreigner, it is seen as funny and you might get a response like ‘yeah whitey’

Now, tell him/her take a good look at your face so they can recognize you and tear a $100 bill in front them in half ( this is about 16 US or 19 CAN) – the rationale behind this, is so that they will work for you, give them one half of the bill… if you tear it unevenly, give them the bigger ‘half’ , tell them, as long as you get all the drinks you want quickly, they will get the other half. Now they will find you and serve you all your drinks– but please once you are done or before you are completely smashed, give them the other half of the bill – it is only fair since you would not want someone to do that to you. Tipping is not a customary thing in Trinidad, so your tip will go a long way. Using $100, is usually the person’s nightly income and you just tipped them their wage… think about it.. ur on holiday and you paid less than cab fare downtown in most metropolitan cities – and you made one person very happy and all the people partying with you very DRUNK!!!

2. Cooler Fete

This is a term that ALWAYS gets the tourist. Everyone knows what a cooler is! Right?

this is a cooler
Now that you have the pic, this is what a cooler fete is, you take one of these filled with your own drinks and stuff inside the party, and you and your crowd party around your cooler in the middle of a live concert and drink and hang out. It is a great way to enjoy the party but there are a couple factors that one must consider when going to a cooler fete

  • Who is going to protect your cooler?
  • Once you are drunk, who is taking your cooler home?
  • Finding someone strong to carry the cooler!!
  • Once you can find answers to these questions, then you are ok, but consider that if you are going to a cooler fete, you are going to a fete where the crowd tends to be a bit rougher in nature, of course this is only my opinion, since the last time I attended a cooler fete, was when I was student and broke. In the past couple years, Trinidad has become a much rougher place, and security is something that should always be considered since there are a lot of pickpockets at these fetes. I would never take my foreign guests to these unless they are experienced in Trini culture and dont stand out in a crowd.

    Cooler fetes vary in the amount of security that they will have but I tend to avoid the larger ones, like Pier 1 and Anchorage, since the mass of people is quite large and pickpockets abound. This is a factor because no matter what people say, the crime in Trinidad is something to look at and be VERY aware of. Cooler fetes are cheaply priced, hence anyone can get in and if there is an incident, security wont be able to come quickly. This of course is only one person’s opinion, and should be taken with the opinion of others

    3. Wet Fete / River Fete / Pool Fete/ Beach lime

    I class these all together since they involve a body of water or water being sprayed or being doused with water. So normal rules apply for ladies, dont wear white or see through material with no bra. For all the foreign women out there, Trinidad is not somewhere to go alone and especially to these fetes.

    These parties will involve some combination of bathing suit and transport to some hotel or beach. Of course the hotel parties are good, the open beach parties should be attended with a degree of caution

    4. Tents

    Firstly here is a comprehensive list of some calypso/talk tents Calypso tents
    Calypso tents are venues in which calypsonians perform during the Carnival season. Originally these performanced took place under tents, but they soon moved to permanent structures. Although traditional calypso has lost ground to soca and party music, the Tents remain popular venues and still serve as a launch pad for many young artistes. More about this is here More about Calypso Tents

    I personally like Calypso Tents, but because of the politics in a lot of the tents, foreigners wont be able to get to the political commentaries, which I think are some of the most poignant commentaries on Trinidad society. Political Commentaries are often stinging and a more recent development has been the racial pointing of them. I wont go into this here, but I do recommend them to anyone going to Trinidad. They are brilliant! 🙂

    5. Other

    Raving is not a big thing in Trinidad… although there are the Insomnia parties in Trinidad that start at 4 am and go on till about noon the next day. Not much to comment about these, since they attract a certain all night personality and age group.

    Other Questions:

    • Do such tickets need to be purchased months in advance?
      No. There will be ads online, on TV, on the radio and word of mouth. If you’re at a hotel, just ask what are the hottest fetes around and they should help you out.
    • How does a person determine what particular fete might be of interest to them?
      Talk to people. You’re traveling. Ask questions. It isn’t rocket science … you want booze, women and music. All fetes have that. The differentiator is the class of everything … you want better booze, VIP service, etc .. you will need to find the “right” fete with the “right” crowd.
    • How much do all-inclusive fetes usually cost?
      From $50 USD to $200 USD. It all depends on what you’re looking for. See previous answer.
    • What time do they start and what time do they end?
      Gates/doors open typically at 9pm … but no one in their right mind will show up before midnight, especially to an all night all inclusive fete. Do you really want to be outside all night for 8 hours?
    • How about attending steel drum competitions or costume competitions?
      Attending Panorama and the steel pan competitions is a right of passage for many. Tickets are cheap, entertainment is plentiful and the street food is good. Google is your friend on this one.

    No Responses Yet to “Carnival Fete Planning 101”

    1. I love this post and used it as part of my comprehensive guide to planning Trinidad carnival…mainly geared toward newbies!


    2. asha said

      What if you wanted to get a bar on consignment. Where can you find a listing of such bars?

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