Every “August Friday,” the Anguilla’s tiny capital, The Valley, is overtaken by a colourful spectacular – the Parade of Troupes. Hundreds of locals and visitors line the streets to watch the fabulous display of beautiful costumes and happy revelers. Visitors are very welcome to take part in the Parade of Troupes, so if you want to be part of the action rather than watching from the sidelines here’s how:
Book your vacation at Four Seasons Resort and Residences Anguilla to include August Friday, and to avoid disappointment do this at least two months in advance. Immediately inform the Concierge that you would like to register for a troupe and to send information. Look at the designs, make your choice, fill in the form, requesting size (xs to xxxl), type and colour costume – each troupe is made up of different sections corresponding to the theme they have chosen that year – then send payment in advance.
For women the price ranges from USD 200 to 350 and normally includes a headpiece, body suit (which ranges from the very daring barely-there wire bra with miniscule panties or monokinis to full coverage) plus arm, leg and tummy pieces. The price is usually lower for men, who get a head piece, shorts, chest piece, arm, leg and tummy pieces. It will not include footwea,r which you need to supply in a specific colour (normally gold or silver) or pantyhose. Each troupe has a support cart that dispenses drinks and light snacks when you are “on de road” and this is also covered in the fee. Best of all, you get to keep your costume!
When you arrive in Anguilla you will receive joining instructions and find your costume waiting in your room. Try it on in advance because all though the costumes are individually made but this gives you time to make simple adjustments to fit.
On the morning of the parade: Have a makeup artist do full carnival makeup (if your troupe leader hasn’t arranged a group session); slather on sunscreen and have a hearty brunch. Get ready and make sure you take lots of photos – you will look AMAZING.
After joining your troupe: Be prepared to hang around for an hour or so as the troupe forms and the procession gets underway, join your section and get instructed on routine (if they have one). If you haven’t already, have a stiff drink to loosen you up.
During the parade: Don’t worry if you’re not the best dancer in the world, just relax and enjoy, do what comes naturally – jump up, get down, dance, drink and make merry until the sun goes down and your feet can’t take it anymore!
Joining a troupe and wearing one of those headdresses is a wonderful experience but it can be exhausting, so be prepared. Keep well hydrated, wear good shoes and apply lots of sunscreen. If you feel self conscious about wearing such a flamboyant costume, don’t! Women of all ages, shapes and sizes “play mass” and the other members of the troupes will make you feel very welcome. You don’t need to be a great dancer either, it’s all about attitude. Just join in and smile and you will do great.
Be warned the event often runs on “Caribbean time” – but a good rule of thumb is to anticipate the parade will start around 2:00 pm and finish at about 6:00 pm. It follows a short, slow circular route around the Valley of approximately 2.5 miles (4 kilometres), starting on Coronation Avenue and ends at the Landsome Bowl where those still standing are asked on stage to perform. If you get too tired it is perfectly acceptable to leave your troupe before the parade finishes.
Anguilla’s Carnival is certainly one that you’ll long remember, especially if you’re a participant. Bring your camera and your island-style spirit and take home memories of a festive, Caribbean adventure you can share with your friends and family.