Batabano delivers carnival flair

The vibrant colours and pulsating percussion of Batabano rocked Seven Mile Beach on Saturday, featuring thousands of costumed dancers and revellers, as well as spectators lined up along the side of the road to cheer them on.

The street parade, which began at 1pm by Seven Mile Public Beach, wound its way along West Bay Road and did not stop shimmying until hours later. Float after float, each more colourful than the last, was accompanied by legions of scantily clad dancers.

Governor Martyn Roper took in his first Batabano from a convenient spot right in front of his Government House home on West Bay Road. He said it was a thrill to be able to see the Cayman spectacle in all its grandeur.

“It’s lovely, wonderful. Lots of colour and fantastic costumes. I’m really enjoying it,” the governor said. “I’ve seen some similar carnivals in other parts of the world, but this one looks fantastic.”

Many of the dancers and bands began their day in preparation at Calico Jack’s bar on Seven Mile Beach, right near the beginning of the parade route. One trio of ‘jumpers’ spoke about their preparations for the event.

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Teri Bilewitch, Katie Schwandt and Sarah Caswell, radiant in white feathers, said that they had participated in Batabano multiple times but actually made their costumes for the first time this year. That process took around five hours, and they were prepared for the long day in stifling heat.

“We’re looking forward to it,” said Bilewitch of the arduous walk up West Bay Road. “You know, we’ve all got insoles and comfortable shoes, so we’re fine. This isn’t our first rodeo.”

“We had a couple rookies come by and ask if they should wear high heels,” said Schwandt. “We were like, ‘No!’ When you actually know what you’re doing, you know how to get through the day.”

Caswell, in fact, took the preparation to a whole new level. “I even sewed a pocket in my boot,” she said. “My phone, my keys, my money are all sewn into my boot. We’re good.”

The Batabano celebration began on Thursday night with the Le Masque dinner ball at Pedro St. James.

And while that event did not feature any of the earth-shattering bass notes that mark the parade bands, it was nevertheless lively, with a combination of DJ-produced and live music during an evening where masked revellers in evening dress drank and danced. Paris-based violinist Mapy was the highlight of the evening, taking the stage just after 10pm to play a set of soca and Afro-beat infused music.

Also featured on the bill was Ginetta M. of the New York band Ginetta’s Vendetta, who moved the dancers with upbeat jazz work, playing the pocket trumpet and singing.

Harbour Drive featured the Outta De Blue dance party Friday night, with headliners Iwer George, also known as The Water Lord, from Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados’ Marzville (The Wining Sensation.)

After Saturday’s parade, there was the Last Lap party and food festival on Cardinall Avenue, which allowed revellers to keep the party going deep into the night.

It was a long day, and people began to set up shop alongside the side of West Bay Road around 12:30pm on Saturday, a half-hour before the proceedings began. A healthy crowd lined up in front of Governors Beach in front of the Bella Luna beverage truck, which sold smoothies to the thirsty spectators.

One couple, Jason and Helen Jones, were excited to witness their first Batabano.

“Colours,” said Jones when asked what he was most looking forward to. “We missed it last year because I had to do First Aid training. We went to CayMas, but I’ve heard that this one is even bigger.”

Additional reporting for this story was provided by Compass reporter Mark Muckenfuss.