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By Andre Bagoo and Darcel Choy Friday, February 8 2013

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FOR THE FIRST time, six major crowns will be at stake tonight, in what is expected to be the ultimate Carnival battle royale.

They call it “Fantastic Friday” and “Big Friday” this year, for good reason! The six crowns up for grabs are: King of Carnival, Queen of Carnival, Junior King of Carnival, Junior Queen of Carnival, Play Whe International Groovy Soca Monarch and last, but certainly not least, the Digicel International Soca Monarch — the Power Soca category.

In one night, a total of more than $5 million in prize-money will be for the taking. No doubt for some competitors it will be about the money, but, for others, Carnival glory.

Nineteen soca singers will do battle at the Hasley Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo, in a show that is expected to start at 9 pm. All eyes are on whether six-time International Soca Monarch winner Austin “Superblue” Lyons will make a comeback. He last won way back in the year 2000, when, for some, the soca landscape was completely different.

Lyons will have to dethrone defending champion Machel Montano — himself competing in the wake of being found guilty of assault charges and facing sentencing after Carnival. He is aiming for a historic hat-trick after having won two years in a row.

The winner will take home $2 million (Power) and $1 million (Groovy). There will be celebrity TV commentators, including US actors Vivica A Fox; Tatiyana Ali (of Trinidadian parentage); Damien Dante Wayans and Darrin Benson.

Half-a-mile away from the stadium, at the Queen’s Park Savannah, the Kings and Queens of Carnival will all compete in a special production being put on by the National Carnival Bands Association (NCBA).

Former International Soca Monarch Fay Ann Lyons-Alvarez and husband Ian “Bunji Garlin” Alvarez, the daughter and son-in-law of Superblue, as well as former International Groovy Soca Monarch Kes Dieffenthaller, may have all pulled out of the competition at the stadium, but they are expected to play a part in the NCBA’s show at the Savannah, NCBA president David Lopez said yesterday.

“It is going to be a whole production put on by Geraldo Viera Jnr,” Lopez told Newsday yesterday.

“We will also have David Rudder, Denyse Plummer, Bunji and Faye-Ann. We are planning something special.”

In the King of Carnival competition, Mac Farlane’s King Gerald Weekes will see if he can seal the deal after topping the preliminaries and semi-finals with a depiction of a large drooping fish, entitled, “The Joy of Love & Friendship”. He will have to fend off many challengers who started to close the gap in the semi-final round, including Ronald Blaize, with ‘De Agony of Human Bundage’ and Roland St George’s, “Rising of the Ancestors”.

Also competing in the contest of ten is newly-crowned Arima King of Carnival Radcliffe Forrester, with “Creature of the Wonder Garden.” And Ted Eustace will look to follow in the footsteps of his father Teddy and brother Curtis with, “Moko In Flames”. The Queen of Carnival competition will see hot favourite Liselle Frauenfelder attempt to surprise the judges with “Danis Wantam — The Dance of Reconciliation”.

She will face tough competition from nine others including newly-crowned Arima Queen of Carnival Roxanne Omalo with, “Aurora — A Luminous Phenomenium of Light and Beauty” and Kay Mason’s “From Darkness to Light”.

Forrester and Omalo were crowned at the Arima Basketball Court on Wednesday night.

The staging of the Carnival King and Queen competition almost did not happen as some masqueraders had last month threatened to boycott over the separation of the show from the traditional Dimanche Gras competition which takes place on Sunday as well as on the issue of prize money.

The King and Queen of Carnival are expected to receive $250,000 each. The holding of all these competitions on one night has only been made possible due to the NCC’s decision to reform the Dimanche Gras show, for the first time removing all of its competitive elements into individual finals throughout the build-up to Carnival Monday and Tuesday. Instead a cultural show is planned for Sunday.

A whopping 30 finalists are expected in the Junior King and Junior Queen of Carnival competition tonight, which will run alongside the adult competition at the Savannah.

Though their costumes are far smaller than those of their seniors – in addition to the lower first-place prize money of $20,000 – the kids are expected to more than carry their own compared with the adults. Denzil Patrick Jennings led the pack in the preliminaries in the Junior King competition, with, “D’ Real King Clown In Town (Tribute to Rudolph Le Gall)” while Patrina Harrigin led in the Junior Queen competition with, “I Dream of An Indian Bustle Dancer”.

Soca War

However, the main event, for many, with be the duel between Superblue, the soca master, and Montano, its reigning king.

The competition which will begin at 9 pm will be a thrilling one as Montano, who also holds the Groovy Monarch and Road March crowns, is expected to put on a high-energy performance of his contender “Float”. However, Superblue presentation of his “Fantastic Friday” is anticipated to be a show-stopper as legendary mas man/artistic director Peter Minshall is working with the veteran.

Bandleader Michael “Big Mike” Antoine will also work with Superblue.

In the past Antoine worked on the master soca maestro’s presentations, but during Superblue’s absence from the scene for 13 years the bandleader worked with Iwer George and others. This year, he is reportedly “100 percent again with SuperBlue.”

The 3Canal band members, Wendell Manwarren, Stanton Kewley and Roger Roberts who provided vocals in the recording of the song will be backing Superblue on stage as they have done all through the Carnival season.

Superblue will end the competition at position number 11 and Montano will perform in position number nine.

Also going up against these two heavyweights are Shivonne “Lil Bits” Church who will start the competition. Destra Garcia, Rodney “Benjai” La Blanc, Devon Matthews, Marvin “Swappi” Davis and former Soca Monarch champs Jason “JW” Williams & Ancil “Blaze” Isaac Jr and Shurwayne Winchester. Two regional artistes will also be competing, Lornette “Fya Empress” Nedd from St Vincent and the Grenadines and Wilt “Tallpree” Cambridge from Grenada.

In the Play Whe Groovy Soca Monarch, Montano will also be defending his title with his song “Fog” against ten others including five women. The competition will be a tough one as all the competitors have major hits for the Carnival season. Good news for those competing in this category that the prize money has been increased from last year’s $500,000 to $1 million.

Starting off will be Drupatee Ramgoolai with her song “Indian Gyal” (featuring Montano) and closing will be Dexter “Blaxx” Stewart with his song “Leh Go”, a favourite in the competition. Rodney “Benjai” Le Blanc who was a crowd favourite at the semi-finals at the Arima Velodrome with his son “Feter” will perform in position number five.

Speaking to Newsday briefly yesterday, Benjai said he intends to make sure the crowd of thousands have fun and that his presentation is pleasing to the cameras.

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