August 23, 2007 — Vol. 43, No. 2
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Kids and adults get to let wild side shine at Carnival

Yawu Miller

By all rights, 13-year-old Chanel Cowan-Cummings should have Carnival in her blood.

“I’ve been doing this since I was 2,” she says, standing in a cricket costume that is part of D’Midas International’s 2007 Carnival theme, “Somewhere in the Amazon.”

“I remember winding to the floor like my aunts taught me,” Cowan-Cummings says. “They taught me how to do it. I’ve been doing this since I could walk.”

Cummings’ early induction into the ranks of Carnival dancers was not so rare among the scores of youths competing for the King and Queen prizes at this year’s Kiddie Carnival, held last weekend at White Stadium in Franklin Park.

The annual event, a precursor to Saturday’s Boston Caribbean Carnival, allows bands to showcase young individual dancers who might otherwise be lost in the crowd.

The adult King and Queen competitors were scheduled to be judged Tuesday at the Reggie Lewis Athletic Center. At Saturday’s Carnival, a triumvirate of judges flown in from Trinidad will select the best band from their judging stand, which this year has been moved to the corner of Blue Hill Avenue and Glenway Street.

When the D’Midas band is ready to jump in Saturday’s Carnival, Cowan-Cummings will be surrounded by butterflies, fireflies, bats and other Amazonian wildlife costumes that have been fashioned from wire, fabric, Styrofoam, feathers, sequins and glitter.

The Amazonian contingent will be competing with 11 other bands for the top trophy at this year’s Carnival.

Much of the success or failure of the bands rests on the shoulders of youths like 11-year-old J.D. Niles, who is playing an Amazonian medicine man, replete with a 10-foot-tall wire and fabric costume embedded with more than 40 plastic skulls, lion heads and demon faces.

“It’s not heavy,” he says, as he prepares to dance in front of a judging stand in White Stadium, aiming for a three-peat win of the best dancer award in the annual Kiddie Carnival competition.

Among the scores of dancers that Dynasty bandleader Cynthia Coker is leading into the competition is her eight-year-old grandson, Andre.

“This is fun,” she says, as she adjusts Andre’s costume. “There’s a lot of excitement. The kids look forward to this every year. It’s a lot of work, but in the end it pays off. They enjoy themselves and look good.”

The 12 bands and more than 30 floats expected to participate in this year’s Carnival will bring color and crowds to the parade route, which stretches along Warren Street from Martin Luther King Boulevard to Franklin Park.

In past years, crowd estimates have ranged from 250,000 attendees to 500,000.

Two new bands, Island Pride and Chocolate City, will be participating this year, according to Carnival Committee Chairwoman Shirley Shillingford.

And, for the first time ever, the governor of the Commonwealth will participate. Deval Patrick will serve as grand marshal for the parade.

“We are very excited about that,” Shillingford said.

Other politicians planning to attend include state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson and city councilors Chuck Turner and Charles Yancey, all three of whom were in attendance at the Kiddie Carnival.

“This is a highlight of the year,” Turner said of Carnival. “It’s a time when people in the community who come from the Caribbean and African Americans come together to celebrate blackness in all of its variety. People let go of everything and celebrate. There’s no other event that brings this many people into the community.”

Chanel Cowan-Cummings (center) has been dancing in Carnival since she was 2 years old. She and friends (left to right) Alyssa McAlpin, Rikeira Hinds and Dennay Mills — photographed during the Kiddie Carnival — are dancing with the D’Midas International band, whose theme, “Somewhere in the Amazon,” has them dressed as crickets. (Yawu Miller photo)

Elizabeth Mitchel, a dancer with the D’Midas International Carnival band, vies for the title of queen in the Kiddie Carnival competition, which allows young individual dancers to showcase their talent. (Yawu Miller photo)

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