By Lon Winters
I grew up in Colorado. We’re known for big mountains, great skiing, a certain beverage that comes in a can affectionately dubbed the “Silver Bullet,” and the elevation of our capital city. Festivals, on the other hand, are not our strong suit. Sure, we have a handful, and generally speaking they are a good time, but it’s not like we’re approaching Mardi Gras-levels of revelry or anything like that.
So, as a kid living in a medium-sized town an hour or so north of Denver, when I heard it was carnival time, I knew that a few flatbeds, buses, and 18-wheelers would soon be rolling in, and that the next morning a traveling amusement park would rise like a phoenix from the dirt parking lot at the county fairgrounds.
Unfortunately, the promise was always much better than the payoff, which is why most of my life, whenever the word “carnival” was uttered, the only images I could conjure were those of a few rickety rides, a number of tossa-bean-bag games, and funnel cake (nothing wrong with funnel cake, of course).
That is, until I spent some time in the Caribbean, where places such as Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Aruba, and virtually every other island at some time during the year host an extravagant celebration that has nothing to do with winning stuffed animals or riding a tilt-a-whirl, but everything to do with commemorating the culture, folklore, and traditions of the people who inhabit those particular destinations.