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In Trinidad, Carnival is for everyone.  It has been called the "greatest show on earth."   Anyone can get involved.  If you want to wear a costume and march with a group, you simply go to a mas camp and buy a costume.  If you want to play in a pan band, you can join and learn the music. 

The event is launched by a parade in November of the previous year.  Music is written and costumes are designed months ahead.  One of the locals told us the primary concern in Trinidad is,  "How am I going to pay for my carnival costume?"  The costume-making camps, called mas camps, assemble thousands of costumes by hand . The pan yards begin to practice songs for competition.  Everyone is encouraged to visit, watch and join in.  No elite societies restrict participation.

Display of costumes at mas camp

Mas is short for masquerade.  Mas camps develop a theme and design a selection of costumes around that theme.  Despite the theme, most of the costumes have the same general design of two-piece ensembles with 6-8 inch cuffs for the wrists and ankles and exotic headdresses. There are optional capes with many costumes.  We are told that the costumes cost more each year and contain less and less material as customs from other countries influence the Trinidad costumes.  Sequins, feathers, and beads adorn the satin material.  The process is labor intensive with each decoration glued on by hand.  All costumes are the same size so you adjust them to fit, not with fancy fasteners but by tying them with cord or twine. Cruisers who wear costumes usually wear a bathing suit underneath but many of the locals do not.  You might think that only the most attractive and physically fit would don these outfits au naturel, but we saw pictures from last year of every body type and size scantily clad in comparable outfits.

Cutting costumes by hand

Gluing costumes by hand

Dick & Kathy at mas camp display

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