Caribbean Day Festival in Suffolk

Kaiso Stilt Walkers U.S.A.
Photo by Tangerine Clarke

For the first time, the spirit of Caribbean culture penetrated the Suffolk County environs with stirring steelpan music, stilt dancers and carnival costume revelry, to celebrate Carnival Day Festival organized by the Suffolk County Caribbean Cultural Association Inc. (SCCCAI)

The scheduled 10-hour fete, which began at noon on Sept. 8, attracted hundreds of Caribbean nationals, mainly from Trinidad and Tobago to showcase their West Indian pride on the grounds of Suffolk Community College in Brentwood, Long Island.

The infectious Caribbean celebration from the Labor Day weekend continued with ADLIB Steel Orchestra fresh from capturing the 2012 Panorama competition at the Brooklyn Museum. The spirited band that also won the crown last year put on quite a show that had spectators tramping carnival style on the grounds.

Despite the dark clouds that had hung overhead, the nationals reveled to the rhythm section of Wie Tiu, which captivated the massive crowd for more that one hour with a tingling tempo that got into the blood of the Trinis for a throwback to carnival in Trinidad and Tobago.

The first time event was quite impressive. The young Kaiso Stilt Walkers USA mesmerized the crowd with their skillful acts high up in the air, while noted entertainer Twiggy of the hit carnival tune “Up Under Me” – all decked out in her Trini colors, revved up the stage with her lively performance.

Calypso King of the World, the Mighty Sparrow who was scheduled to perform was a no-show, among others who no doubt was sidelined by the torrential downpour that interrupted the Carnival Day Festival.

Carla Patrick-Alexander one of the 11-member board members, thanked the nationals for coming out to support the first such event, but was critical of the Multi Cultural Director of Suffolk Community College who, at the last minute requested that the group pay a $5000.00 fee. He justified the payment as an assurance that the same incidents that took place at the Labor Day Carnival in Brooklyn, wouldn’t happen there.

This action caused the group to charge an entrance fee of $10.00 that was advertised as a free cultural event. This prompted a mass exodus of disappointed patrons who had come to enjoy their culture.

Patrick-Alexander demanded that the college not judge all Caribbean events as rowdy. She went on to say that even though the Central Islip organization was formed eight years ago, the culture was not truly represented in the county that has a large Latino community.

President of SCCCAI Anthony Ahyoung began by teaching the youth in the community to play the steeplpan and eventually formed the group board to further educate the students about their Caribbean culture.

“We did not want to loose focus of our Caribbean culture,” said Patrick-Alexander, a Trinidad and Tobago native, who added that they never had the opportunity to express their Caribbean culture in the county, but was excited that the first Caribbean Day Festival had materialized.

The president disclosed that State Assemblyman Carlos Ramos who was in attendance, spoke to the college on the organization’s behalf so that next year’s festival will be extended to Crooked Hill Road, in Brentwood – outside of the College grounds – for a massive presentation.

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