Several of the big bands stayed away from the Queen's Park Savannah on Carnival Monday, but those who crossed the stage expressed exuberance over the return of Carnival after the two-year hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
J'Ouvert band Clay Evolution holds the honour of being the first band to cross the main stage this year, with thousands of masqueraders prancing across the stage before the sun rose.
With the mud and paint J'Ouvert celebrations all wound down at the Savannah by 9 am, it was the turn of the traditional characters to take their walks before the judges with presentations that ranged from blue devils to bats to fancy sailors before an appreciative audience that was just beginning to build ahead of the mas band presentations.
Ronnie and Caro was the first big band to take the stage with their presentation, "This is Paradise". As is the tradition on Carnival Mondays, the multiple Band of the Year winners crossed the stage in blue jerseys with the band's name and theme emblazoned on them.
Most of their masqueraders were in various coloured bikini bottoms or short pants, taking the stage to Bunji Garlin's "Hard Fete".
Band leader Ronnie McIntosh said he was elated that the country could celebrate Carnival again.
"This is paradise. We had this concept after the 2020 Carnival, basically focusing on Trinidad and Tobago...how fantastic we are. It's all about euphoria, about serenity, it's about ecstasy, it's about 'Thank God Carnival is back.'"
His band has between 1,000 and 1,200 masqueraders, and he felt that figure was about the most he could manage at this time. He is eyeing the top prize again.
"It's good to be on the stage, but it's good to have some kinda income coming in because we had none coming in for the last how many years, you know that. Tomorrow is costumes, tomorrow is niceness, tomorrow is everything organised and structured and sectioned, and tomorrow is Band of the Year," he said.
One female masquerader in his band summed up her feeling in a few simple words, "It feels wonderful two years later, wonderful...woooo!"
Nigerian Tunji Adebayo crossed the stage with the band and expressed his joy at being there.
"It's been amazing. This is my first time here, a new experience and just seeing all the culture. It's like going to a home you've never know, so I plan to be back, thank you to my new neighbours, my new family," he said.
The Lost Tribe was the next big band to cross the stage, doing so in the mid-afternoon period with masqueraders dressed in orange and green outfits.
As the afternoon progressed it was clear that most of the mega bands were not coming to the Savannah, but patrons were not denied the pleasure of further bands as Blow Man Blow Mas Productions came with a presentation of "Flag Party Tribute to Superblue" with a live brass band accompanying them.
Austin "Superblue" Lyons was also among them and was thrilled by the presentation.
"This is brass for the world...Tribute to Superblue, awesome. It's a nice feeling on stage and look out for me tonight (Monday night) in the brass.
"It's royal..it's (like) a family band," he said.
Hinds, Martinez oversee downtown mas
National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds made sure that he did not miss out on the activity as he carried an iron and steel rhythm for Massy Trinidad All Stars.
Speaking to Guardian Media at the South Quay judging point, he was satisfied with the start of the Carnival.
"So far, so good," he said.
He said the mas up to that point yesterday afternoon had been largely incident free.
"The mood is beautiful, the vast majority of people of our country and our visitors, and there are thousands of them, are just at peace and enjoying themselves," he said.
Hinds said in the lead-up to Carnival he had regular briefings with the heads of the various National Security agencies and continues to be briefed daily.
"I am satisfied that the air and the sea and the land support and all the inter-agency inter-articulations are in place," he said.
As it related to overall crime, the minister said he was "confident that the measures that are in place will continue to bear powerful fruit and the situation will get better."
His confidence is being coupled with hope from Port-of-Spain Mayor Joel Martinez who was also downtown overseeing the celebrations.
He admitted that he was anxious as Carnival drew nearer but has been reassured by the presence and work of the security agencies.
"Port-of-Spain is epic," he said.
In terms of his picks for Road March, Mayor Martinez has three contenders, Machel Montano and Destra "Shake the Place", Bunji Garlin "Hard Fete", and Nailah Blackman and Skinny Fabulous "Come Home".
For Hinds it's Olatunji "Engine Room".
In and around the capital city several large bands were parading through the streets.
The colour and the excitement were mixed together to create the experience for the masqueraders and the scores of onlookers who lined the pavements.
Lara's flights concern, bees cause trouble
For cricket legend Brian Lara it was amazing being back on the road after two years without playing mas, but he did have one concern.
"We have to get more flights in, a lot of my friends couldn't get back to Trinidad because of flights, so hopefully next year it's going to be a lot better. But after two years' absence, it's amazing," he said.
Lara said he plans to play with Tribe Mas Band today.
From most of the accounts from participants and those looking on, the process seemed to go without any major hiccups.
There was one issue that caused a temporary halt in bands making their way to the Victoria Square judging point.
A swarm of bees invaded the area at the corner of Cipriani Boulevard and Ariapita Avenue.
Atiba Noel, of React Trinidad and Tobago Council, said the bees were, "Probably activated by the music and the passing vehicles, so right now the (Port-of-Spain) Corporation has been dispatched, and they sent somebody to deal with the situation.
Meanwhile, not too far away officers of the Customs and Excise Division were on the road conducting checks of roadside vendors to ensure that their licences were in order to allow them to ply their trade.
One officer told Guardian Media that the intention is to check every single vendor.
–with reporting by Sampson Nanton