Despite dire financial straits, Mas Productions Unlimited, arguably the leading Vincentian mas band in the United States, is portraying “Amazonia” for this year’s Children’s Carnival, as it celebrates 20 years of competition.
“We’re using some scenes we did from a production nine years ago,” said Wesley Millington, the band’s founder, designer and producer, in a Caribbean Life interview, referring to the production “Maya.”
“This year, the band is loosely-based on Mayan-American civilization,” he added. “It’s not done based on one specific tribe. It’s a generalization.”
Millington said the band, which is only competing in the Children’s Carnival for the second successive year because of financial constraints, comprises three sections – Jaguar Guard, Temple Keepers, and Prince and Princess of Amazonia.
He said he expects at least 15 masqueraders in each section, lamenting the inability to expand the band significantly and to compete in the Adult mas for the second consecutive year.
“This is 20 years of Mas Productions; and, after 20 years, we’re only bringing the Children’s section,” he said, disclosing that the band, often times the only Vincentian mas band to compete in the West Indian American Day Carnival Parade, lacks sponsorship and support from the community. “That’s really a sad sentiment.”
Millington first announced publicly last August, during Club St. Vincent’s cultural extravaganza in Brooklyn, the band’s desperate financial need, stating that it was suspending production of the Adult section.
He, however, said he will continue the Children’s section for an indefinite period.
But, with the withdrawal of a major sponsor, the Flatbush Avenue Business Improvement District, Millington said that section’s production is in even deeper financial distress.
“We just have to do the best we can this year, and hope we can do better next year,” said Millington, 59, whose love of carnival is, clearly, firmly planted deep in this blood.
He said he was introduced to carnival almost from birth, learning most of his early mas skills from his late father, Winston “Sammo” Quammie, also a veteran Vincentian mas producer, who lived most of his adult life in New York. Quammie died seven years ago.
Despite the financial plight and in view of his “labor of love,” Millington said he will endeavor to resurrect the Adult section soonest.
“I’m willing to give it one more try,” he said, implying that the “carnival itch” forces him to stay connected with the art form.
“We have to shore up the organization after Labor Day, or we’re going to lose all the adults (supporters),” he added.
Millington said a contingent of Belizean masqueraders and a marching band patronize Mas Productions Unlimited.
“We will have to make them a big part of the come-back,” he said.
“They’re really disappointed about last and this year,” he added, referring to the non-production of the Adult section.
“Most of the people they (Belizeans) get are adults,” Millington continued. “They are not going anywhere now; but, if we don’t do something, we’re going to lose them.”
He said Mas Productions Unlimited will restructure about this Labor Day, holding more fundraisers and seeking out sponsors.
“Putting a truck (float) on the parkway is a lot of money,” said Millington without disclosing a figure.
In reflecting on the last 20 years, he said: “It’s been up and down – some years very good, and some years it dropped down. But, up to now, it’s been fun.”
The production has picked up a few notable prizes over the years, including Band of the Year in 2004 in the medium-size category, with “Garden Exotica”; Children Band of the Year in 2005, with “Maya”; and third place in the children’s category, a few years later, with “Psychodelic.”
In 2005, Mas Productions Unlimited also placed 3rd for Adult band, 2nd for King of the Band and Junior Queen, 3rd for Junior King, and Individual of the Year for King.
Without the services this year of veteran Vincentian mas producers Junior “Melbourne” Constance, of Melbourne Artisans, and Ricardo “Puzzle” Grant, of SVG Players International, Millington said a host of volunteers and members are working feverishly with this year’s Children’s production.
He lauded Don Mc Barnett, owner of David’s Bakery, for providing the basement space, free of charge, for the mas camp. David’s Bakery is located at 3405 Avenue H, between East 34th and 35th Streets in Brooklyn.
Millington can be reached at (718) 759-7766; or the band at 866 MAS-BKNY, or 866-627-2569.