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Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Curtis wins ninth crown

CURTIS EUSTACE on Dimanche Gras night won a ninth King of Carnival title, breaking legendary mas man Peter Samuel’s twenty-one-year-old record for most wins in the competition.
Shortly before midnight, Eustace was crowned King of Carnival after carrying his costume, “Sprits of Mandingo-An African Legend” across the stage at the Northern Greens, Queen’s Park Savannah. His record breaking performance was the culmination of a King and Queen of Carnival competition which was plagued by heavy winds and which saw the quality of costumes affected by the global economic downturn.

Two kings, including the favourite going into Sunday’s competition, fell and several queens had difficulty navigating the stage due to persistent, strong winds.

Eustace, though, had no problems carrying his 35 feet high, 38 feet wide silver, red, white and black costume on stage accompanied by dramatic music from German composer Carl Orff’s oratorio “Carmina Burana” and Machel Montano’s 2007 Road March hit “Jumbie”.

He was flanked by eight fibre glass tubes, containing giant skulls representing those of dead African slaves, as a skeletal figure with red eyes danced above him, bowing up and down for the judges and the crowd. In a black and white body-suit, Eustace gyrated, carrying his costume with confidence.

Eustace had twice come close to breaking Samuel’s record, coming in second in the competition in 2008 with a costume entitled “Chromatic Chaos” and in 2009 with “Apollo’s Lust”. He first took the title in 1997 with “D’ Matador” and followed with victories for “Dis Is We Carnival (1998); “D Rough Rider” (2000); “Jab Molassie” (2002); “D’ Sky Is D’ Limit” (2003); “Drums of Freedom” (2004); “War Chant-Rise of Tatanka” (2005); and “D Wrath of Tutamkumhan” (2007).

Samuel last won the title in 1989 with “Lord of the Flies”. His other legendary wins, stemming from a long-standing collaboration with mas legend Peter Minshall, included: “The Merry Monarch” (1987); “Callaloo Dancing Tic Tac Toe Down The River” (1984); the audacious “Man Crab” (1983); “The Sacred and the Profane” (1982); “The Midnight Robber” (1980) and “Devil Ray” (1979). Samuel also took the title in 1976 with “The Serpent”.

“It’s finally the national record,” an elated Eustace told reporters after he was announced as winner. I think I pleased the crowd. I think I did a good job.”

Samuel congratulated Eustace yesterday and told Newsday, “Records like mine were meant to be broken.” He, however, would not rule out a return to mas to reclaim his record, simply saying he had “no immediate plans” to do so.

Many noted yesterday an exacerbated decline in the quality of costumes in the competition, which they linked to the global economic downturn.

Eustace said his costume, from the band “Spice Carnival”, took two and a half months to put together and cost approximately $75,000. At the same time, he said, the top prize money for the titles of King and Queen of Carnival is $120,000. “The mas materials are getting out of the loop right now,” he said. “But the prize money they are giving out for Dimanche Gras has remained constant.”

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