St. Barths Online

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Feb 1, 2008

Who Was That Masked Man?

There are a few times during the year when the residents of Saint Barth really know how to party, and Mardi Gras is certainly one of them. Called Carnival here, as it is in Rio and Venice, not to mention Trinidad, the celebration lasts from Friday then the kids parade through town in the most adorable little costumes (unfortunately it’s at the height of the afternoon sun and the poor dears were looking quite hot….) through the following Wednesday with the burning of Vaval, the Carnival king, on Shell Beach as a end to Ash Wednesday and the final fun before lent begins, this being a predominantly Catholic island. The height of it all is Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, when anything goes. St  Barths Carnival - GipsyTake David Grodberg for example. One week he is a 70+ retired American dentist who was running the Saint Barth Dental Conference, a most serious enterprise. And there he is just a week or so later, donning a wig and a black ruffled shirt and cavorting on a truck as one member of Saint Barth’s version of The Gipsy Kings, up there with his buddies including Andy, who takes the day off from serving up pizza and warm beer to be part of this Carnival cavalcade. Joanne Quetel of Les Artisans with her friends Katia and Mandy (the Anglican vicar’s wife) used about 7000 cotton balls to create some of the most inventive costumes on the street, looking much like albino versions of Marie Antoinette. St Barths Carnival - EgyptianMadame Miot looked as if she just stepped out of a period costume ball peering out from a silver mask in a fabulous pink hat and dress she confected herself. Then there’s John King, an American who comes for Carnival every year, marching this time in the pink and blue feathers of “Rum and Ginger,” one of local groups. Sue O’Donnell was in full Egyptian regalia, while American Kathy Snow was zee perfect French maid and her husband Chris attracted major attention in his blow-up Miss Saint Barth 2008 outfit. And our friend Philippe Hochart looked quite fetching in full drag while his wife was wearing the pants in the family. One of the interesting things about Carnival is that is it also one of the few times during the year that everybody gets in the act. St Barths Carnival - BrazilTourists, natives, and assorted other residents, including a Brazilian in a hot little blue number and feathered headdress—she is the real thing! But how did those women with the champagne glasses on their heads and the huge feathered wings manage to march around town for five hours in six-inch heels? And after all that, there’s still a crowd on the beach on Wednesday night for the biggest bonfire of the year—the Saint Barth version of Burning Man—when a straw effigy of Vaval is carried through town then torched on the beach to the rhythm of throbbing drumbeats. It takes a few days to recover from it all—my husband marched with ASCCO and said it felt like running a marathon—but it sure is fun to see everybody stepping out and putting on quite a show!

More to come,
Ellen Lampert-Greaux


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