When most people think of Antigua's Carnival, the first thing that comes to mind are the costumes. The festival is known for the colourful barely-there scraps of fabric adorned with beads and feathers, the jumpy music and the street parades. All of this is to be expected of course, but when the night falls, Carnival City rises.
During the Carnival Season, there are many shows which take place within the Antigua Recreation Grounds, a large public space in the heart of St. Johns. The area is temporarily called Carnival City from July to early August, as every activity which takes place within that time frame is associated with Antigua's greatest Summer festival.
For vacationers who arrive to partake in the festivities, nightly shows such as the 'Antigua's Queen of Carnival' and 'Party Monarch' should not be missed. Everything from Pageantry to song competitions between favoured carnival artists are blended together at Carnival City for an experience which is akin to a cultural explosion.
Shows where guests are expected to sit on the stands aren't the only type of events which take place. Carnival fetes featuring music bands such as Red Hot Flames and local and international soca artists such as Machel Montano, Claudette Peters and Destra are routinely held. These events can best be described as a Carnival rave. Flags and banners are waving, confetti is shot into the air and fireworks light up the night.
Some of these fetes include LOL which stands for Lots of Liquour and NBA which is the abbreviated form of Nothing But Alcohol. While this type of revelry is fun, of course visitors should have concerns about safety. Carnival City is patrolled by many policemen, both in uniform and plain clothes, in an attempt to curtail violence and potential mishaps.
During Carnival Monday and Carnival Tuesday, there's a miniature theme park for the young ones. There's face painting and amusement park rides for about $2 USD. The biggest attraction with the young crowd this year was a huge trampoline ride, in which the rider is strapped into a suit which attaches to two tall poles. Each jump catapults the rider high into the air and this activity was only $5 USD!
Every year, thousands of people flow in and out of Carnival City and the photos which can be found on their cameras attest to the good times which can be had. The prices of these shows vary considerably, but one can expect to pay anything from $7 USD for most, while specialty events such as the queen shows will cost about $20 USD.
In summary, Carnival City is the home of Antigua's Carnival. It's where all the street parades end, it's where the party starts and where the magic comes alive. However, it only exists for a short 30 day period each year, so if you're planning a visit during the summer, come prepared!