The University of Iowa

Carnivale gets its due downtown

July 29th, 2011

By Rob Daniel, The Press-Citizen

Carnivale in Trinidad and other parts of the Caribbean is a mixture of different cultures coming together to celebrate, bringing together elements such as French foxes, Spanish horses and African spiders.

Another part of the party can be a Chinese dragon, which was toward the front of a long parade of children around the Iowa City Public Library and the pedestrian mall and included Luke Becker, 10, of Iowa City, and his sisters, Emma, 9, and Cora, 6.

“I liked ringing the bells on the dragon and shaking around,” Luke said.

The Beckers were among more than 70 area children who attended a Trinidadian-style Carnivale celebration Thursday afternoon at the Iowa City Public Library. Featuring a story from Trinidad about the party, masks and costumes as part of the parade, the children marked the end of the library’s summer reading program as they learned about the different peoples who have come to Trinidad and influenced its culture, said Loyce Arthur, a University of Iowa associate theater arts professor and a native of Grenada.

Arthur, who also is co-director of UI’s Caribbean Diaspora and Atlantic Studies program, said she had attended Carnivale celebrations in Toronto, Canada; Rio de Jinero; and London; traditionally before the beginning of Lent but also at other times of the year depending on the season.

“I think for the kids, Carnivale is fun,” she said. “In each Carnivale, you have the same story of all the people coming together. We’d love the children to go and read about these cultures.”

During the hour-long program, the children listened to a story about different animals striving to be named the Carnivale king alongside the hummingbird, which had been named the queen. The story, narrated by children’s library assistant Debbie Dunn, was acted out by UI graduate students and others. The children then got to make their own masks, which they wore in a Carnivale parade that featured a pickle bucket band and a Chinese dragon that wove around the pedestrian mall.

Among those in the parade were Margaret Liu, 8, and her sister, Karen Liu, 5.

“(I liked) making the masks,” Margaret said.

Their mother, Hui Xu of Iowa City, said she liked the cultural aspects of the program.

“I think it’s interesting and for kids this age, they can use their imagination and understand the different cultures,” she said.