fb-pixel Skip to main content

Carnival Day parade is rollicking, peaceable

A girl danced in Boston's annual Carnival Day parade on Saturday.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Roland Peters, 45, danced down Warren Street on Saturday covered in mud and without a care in the world.

He lives in Trinidad and Tobago, but loves carnival so much that he travels to different parts of the world to participate in the Caribbean festivals.

“It’s the best feeling in the world, after sex,” said Peters. “It’s just a blessed feeling.”

Peters was among the thousands of revelers who participated in the annual Carnival Day parade, an explosion of color and music that wound through the city Saturday afternoon.

A heavy police presence lined the route, which began at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and ended at Franklin Park.


Earlier in the morning, there were several shootings 1 to 2 miles away from the parade’s starting point at Talbot Avenue and Blue Hill Avenue, leaving one dead and four others wounded.

But the parade was boisterous and peaceful, with no violence reported and no arrests made, police said.

“Everybody’s having a great time,” said Kesha Alleyne, 38, who traveled from New York to party.

“It means a great deal to me because I was born and grew up in Trinidad and Tobago. That’s the place that started the carnival,” she said. “It means the world to me.”

Nichola Montague, 35, of Dorchester, marched with the band D’Midas International Boston. For this year’s parade, they paid homage to the record-breaking winter of 2015 with their “Snow Kingdom” theme.

“You have fun. You dress up,” said. Montague. “You represent your country. You represent your city. You represent your heritage.”

Carnival Day began at daybreak with J’ouvert, an early-morning procession where revelers party in the street.

“This is the beginning of the carnival, the dawning,” Henry Antoine, president of the World Carnival Commission, said Saturday morning as he walked among dancers painted head to toe with black oil, surrounding a truck carrying a drum band. “It’s a wonderful time, it’s all about fun. Once a year, you take away all that stress.”


The parade began snaking down Blue Hill Avenue just after 6 a.m. Saturday, with revelers covering their bodies in oil, chocolate, and bright paints. Many wore hats with long, twisting horns, or draped flags around their shoulders. Antoine said the costumes people wear are all about “gimmicks, creation, imagination, humor.”

Though this year’s event was peaceful, J’ouvert has had violence break out in the past. The route was shortened this year because of safety concerns after the death of 26-year-old Dawnn Jaffier, who was caught in the crossfire of a gang fight on Blue Hill Avenue during last’s year’s celebration.

J’ouvert costumes are known for their dark or strange humor. One man tugged a coffin and encouraged people to put money inside it, while another, dressed as a woman and wearing a wig, pushed a teddy bear in a baby carriage down the street.

“He wants to be a lawyer,” Irwin Holloway said of the bear.

One man with live snakes wrapped around his neck offered other celebrants the chance to touch them.

“I want everyone to know what a great time it is!” shouted Stedman Tylerbest, whose face and shirt dripped with chocolate sauce as he danced and laughed.

“This year’s different than previous years,” said Trey Eddith, 25, who works in finance and has attended J’ouvert since his childhood. “It does feel a little safer.”


The celebration was more organized, he said, and the crowd did not seem as large or as rowdy as it had in past years.

In front of Eddith, young people danced close and laughed, rubbing paint and oil on each other.

“These people are having a good time,” said Eddith. “When you’re smiling and carefree, it reminds us of home.”

Like many attendees, Eddith lamented the association in people’s minds between Saturday’s early-morning violence and the J’ouvert celebration.

“It’s not happening right here,” he said, gesturing to the street full of joyful celebrants in front of him. “It’s coincidence.”

City Councilor Tito Jackson walked the route to make sure people were safe and having a good time, and, a few blocks from the end, said that the festivities went well.

“I’m finding that people are having a good time, including splashing paint on me,” he said, his white shirt covered in black handprints. “There are some great musicians, everything is drum-based. It really feeds your soul.”

Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @evanmallen. Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.