April 22, 2004 – The excitement in front of the Lionel Roberts Stadium stage at Wednesday's Culture Night program was nothing compared to the hustle and bustle going on behind the scenes as teams of designers positioned this year's fantasy creations on the candidates for 2004 King and Queen of the Bands.
Anticipation mounted during the first half of the show, dominated by school groups dancing the quadrille and plaiting a maypole and by troupes representing the younger generation — majorettes, Indians and velvet-clad Tropical Masqueraders. At intermission, tension mounted on the stadium grounds behind the stage.
The towering costumes worn by the kings and queens of the competing bands arrive in pieces waiting to be assembled and mounted on the people who will perform on stage before the judges. Designers, assistants and supporters have spent days, sometimes weeks, putting hundreds of yards of fabric, feathers and decorations into place.
One designer's wife sitting in the audience Wednesday night mentioned that because of a worldwide outbreak of bird influenza, feathers were costly and hard to come by this year. So some costumes got their grandeur without the traditional frills.
Although dozens of troupes take part in the V.I. Carnival parades, only three competed for for this year's King and Queen of the Bands titles — Infernos, Jus' Action and Radiant Suns.
Jus' Action sparked excitement as its king bent from the waist, flung his massive butterfly wings over his head, then, balancing on his tail, straightened up with ease, sending his wings to sway in the sky.
There was no sparing of the flock for Jus' Action. The king and queen costumes, ablaze with blue gemstones and orange sequins, both contained more than 300 ostrich and peacock feathers.
For the Radiant Suns, Bevis Powell was the man who would be King of the Bands. This year the Suns — a troupe made up of Water and Power Authority workers — are presenting a metereological theme of sunshine, clouds and rainbows.
"They put you in the rainbow and above is the sun, the sky and the clouds," Powell said Wednesday night. "They put it together, then they lift it and put it on you."
For Powell, balance is the key to a good performance. "Once they balance [the costume] on your shoulders, there's no problem," he said. But "if you can't get balance, then you have to run after it to keep it balanced, especially if there's wind."
The winning design for the Queen of the Bands, worn by Laura Gutliffe of Infernos, skirted the whole issue. Fiery in red, yellow and silver, the costume bounced along on a spidery frame of aluminum rods that were light and easy to maneuver. Her huge cluster of multiple tails captured the footlights on stage, thanks to hundreds of gold and silver medallions.
But balance came very much into play for this year's King of the Bands, Darryl Donovan of the Infernos — who was also last year's winner. His costume, crafted in the tradition of Trinidadian carnival characters, soared 18 feet above the stage and spanned 14 feet across. Cut into layers of giant triangular wings, it reflected the footlights from hundreds of mirror-like medallions, gold and silver foil, and peel-off foil which split the white lights into splashes of rainbows.
Their victories announced, Gutliffe and Donovan bounced and strutted to the tunes of Jam Band. Photographers rushed to the edge of the stage. Hundreds in the crowd thrust their hands into the air, cheering in agreement with the judges. The Infernos are sponsored by Coral World and Choice Communications.
Nearly 1,500 people turned out for the free event staged by the V.I. Carnival Committee. Many were members of the three troupes, who with many others will march up Main Street on May 1 in the 2004 Adults Parade. Those who missed Wednesday night's show can see the royalty in all their costumed splendor then.
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