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Carnival vendors: Booths late, in horrible condition

Black Immigrant Daily News

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A row of incomplete booths built for Carnival at Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain. – AYANNA KINSALE

Vendors assigned booths for Carnival at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain complain the amenities and conditions are poor, even though they are paying more in rent compared to two years ago, the last time the festival was held before the covid19 pandemic.

Many of the booths, arranged by the National Carnival Commission (NCC), are still incomplete and some vendors who already got theirs said the wooden structures are infested with woodlice. They told Newsday there’s no security so they stay in the booths overnight to make sure they are not vandalised.

The rent is now $500 more, said the vendors, who asked to not be named.

One vendor said, “The state of the booths are horrible. We got the booths late. The booths full of wood lice droppings.”

The cost of some booths, used for food, drinks, clothes and souvenir sales, increased from $1,500 to $2,000 but, there is a refundable $300 security fee. These booths are located on the outskirts of the savannah, opposite the National Academy of the Performing Arts.

The vendor said most vendors are women – mothers and grandmothers – who rely on hired workmen to upgrade their booths some building shelves for pots and pans or painting them.

One woman said she had to pay NCC’s contractor to paint her booth, despite it being his job.

The vendor’s main concern is, “We don’t have a bathroom. Normally, NCC builds a bathroom so we can take a shower.”

A booth in use for Carnival at Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain. – AYANNA KINSALE

Gesturing to concrete cast on the savannah greens, the vendor said, “It’s usually there. They does block it with ply board. We does put locks and everybody have their own key.”

The vendor said, “Most people stay in their booth. You would go in the daytime, but you sleep here in the night. Cause, if you’re not around the elements will break your booth and steal your hard liquor and stuff, so we stay here.

“A lady now gone out and she ask to me to throw an eye, cause day or night, they would break your booth.”

The portable toilets are unsanitary, despite this some take the chance to bathe in them.

“Those of us who are staying in, would like to take a shower. You know where we bathe: in the toilet.

“You can see it, you can smell it. You have to go there before seven in the morning. If you notice, down there have workmen and you not going wrap-up in your towel and you can’t bathe with your clothes on – you have to bathe naked.

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“When the men come to clean, they just emptying inside the bowl. They not touching the floor. It have all kind of sanitary pads. When we go to bathe, yuh meet women (tinkling) on the floor, all of that, and you have to stand up there to bathe.”

She said on two occasions men walked in on her and she felt violated. One time, two men came to clean the toilets. “When the young man walk in, he say ‘Sorry, sorry. We’ll come back later.’ He went, and I peeping and pull the towel around me. He tell the truck man, ‘It have a lady bathing in there’ and the time, he turn the truck, it’s because he coming to peep me. If he tell yuh somebody in there bathing – a lady– what yuh peeping (at)? So I mean the situation is bad.”

When contacted by Newsday on Monday afternoon, a NCC corporate communications officer, said, “Showers and bathroom amenities (portable bathroom facilities) will be provided as is customary and should be completed within the next few days.”

He added some booths are still under construction and close to completion, with a few minor projects scheduled to ensure all will be up and running in time by this weekend when Panorama and Dimanche Gras takes place, and before the parades on Carnival Monday and Tuesday.

The vendors said they also have to contend with illegal vending.

“They give us these booths, and last week, for Panorama (semi-finals), there was a set of illegal vendors parked outside there. They said that the police run them from Frederick Street, so they come and park there and we who paid for the booths suffered.”

The NCC official said he could not comment on policing in the area but assured collaboration continued with the TTPS and other law-enforcement agencies, including the NCC’s security team whose video surveillance unit would ensure the safety of the vendors and the protection of private and public property.

NewsAmericasNow.com