Orlando Carnival Downtown 2021: First Carnival Since Pandemic

Written by: David Lawrence

Orlando Florida, home of the Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios, became the first city to host a Caribbean-style carnival since the pandemic grounded all such events a year ago.

Four events spread over the Memorial Day weekend, the festivities started on Friday night with ‘Carnival On The Runway’; beautiful models displaying mas costumes for 2022. This was followed with J’ouvert the following Saturday morning, with a Back-into-times featuring old-school soca and reggae music on Saturday night, and culminating in the ‘Parade of the bands’ and After-party on Sunday afternoon into the night.

Oftentimes the braves show the way that can lead us from boom and gloom into the sunshine of joy and laughter. Sam and Guenet Roberts, the organizers of Orlando Carnival Downtown 2021 are such a dynamic duo. Their love for Caribbean culture and carnival led them to keep watch over the quickly improving Covid situation in the US. and executed their planning precisely that made what seemed unlikely a mere month ago possible. Kudos to those two and their assistance for their relentless efforts in getting the ball rolling again.

Needless to say, with the uncertainty surrounding this event, the festivities were a scaled-down version of itself. The crowd though a trickle on Friday night’s ‘Carnival On The Roadway’ event, was significantly larger for J’ouvert and grew to a quite sizeable one on Sunday evening.

Vendors selling different Caribbean dishes, drinks, delicacies, and trinkets were in no short supply and were spread across the festival park to satisfy the needs of those who braved Covid and came out to bask in the sunshine of a late spring afternoon and the beautiful sights of carnival.

Though only two bands of revelers for J’ouvert and one mas band on Sunday’s parade, the atmosphere was quite festive with penned-up energies being released in true Caribbean fashion. Egged on by the rhythmic beat of soca and the commands of trunk-borne DJs, the masqueraders, hopefully fully vaccinated, threw all caution to the wind. Clearly having enough of Covid restrictions their scantily clad bodies gyrating in a joyful celebration of life, and of being carefree and wild. Though to many this may appear reckless, it is worth mentioning that recent CDC advisory permits such outdoor gatherings for vaccinated people.

To close off the festivities, the After-party drew a packed crowd in front of the stage as soca artists from different islands performed to the delight of patrons who were starving for live entertainment. Worth singling out is Mr. Killa with his oiled-down waist and vast female sex appeal. He had the crowd jumping, the women screaming and created a frenzy with his slick moves and commanding vocals. Some other artists to perform were Skinny Banton, Lyrikal, and Problem Child.

As America continues to vaccinate more people and open back up fully, we at CEH together with all carnival lovers sincerely hope that  Orlando Carnival Downtown and the upcoming Miami Carnival, scheduled for early October this year, are just the beginnings of the return of this beloved festival throughout the diaspora.

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