Written by Maya Doyle
The one locale that comes to mind when carnival season approaches is none other than the famous Queen’s Park Savannah. Famously known as the largest roundabout in the world, the Queen’s Park Savannah is one of the most iconic places in the twin isle republic. Located in the heart of Port of Spain, the Savannah hosts many major events during the carnival season and is prized for the Grand Stand and stage which Carnival bands have traditionally crossed since the mid 1900’s.
The Queen’s Park Savannah was originally owned by the Peschier family, who came to Trinidad as a result of the 1783, Cedula of Population which encouraged the immigration of French planters and their families from neighbouring countries to the island. Upon their arrival, the family of French Swiss origin, received 232 acres of land to the north of Port of Spain. The land was cleared to build their sugar estate which comprised a house for the family, accommodations for the enslaved Africans, fields, a mill and a boiling house. After the unfortunate death of two sons in 1786 and Henri Peschier’s subsequent death in 1791, the estate was sold to the Cabildo, excluding a 6,600sq.ft parcel of land in which the Peschier family, to this day, is buried.
The Grand Savannah, as it was called back then, was mainly an open space in which cattle and other livestock grazed. Children would play in the park and many people enjoyed the windy and open scenery including the owners of the popular Magnificent Seven buildings located opposite to the Savannah. In 1887, a pavilion was built just in time for the arrival of the American cricket team. Cricket was played in the savannah by local and international teams until 1896, when the pavilion was demolished. In 1854, the Grand Stand was constructed and horse racing became a regular sport in the Savannah.
Carnival, mainly celebrated in the streets of Port of Spain, and in Marine Square (now Independence Square) migrated to the Grand Stand in 1948. The Parade of the Bands is an annual event in Trinidad where bands are judged and experience the climax of the season. For masqueraders crossing the stage, a traditional feat, is an attraction in itself, with a multiplicity of people and an explosion of colours and music. Costumes of various sizes and colours pour onto the stage, from ‘Kiddies Carnival’ to ‘Kings and Queens’. The Grand Stand is a prominent aspect of Trinidad Carnival and is significant to Trinidadian citizens. The amalgamation of the bands to this centralized location is demonstrative of the pluralism of the country. Every race and colour is portrayed in ‘mas’ and the Grand Stand is the agent of cohesion which unites them.