Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Dunkerque Carnival 2013

Awaiting the bande on Sunday.

  Carnival season was different for me this year than it was last. Not that both weren't filled with large boisterous crowds, music, singing, colors, fun, and friends, but they were two very distinct experiences.

  Last year was my first Carnival experience in Dunkerque, so I had no idea what to expect. I participated in two events spread out over the course of three weeks: one ball, which was the first event of the long Carnival season, and one bande, or parade through the streets, on the biggest Carnival weekend in Dunkerque.

  After having a blast at both events, and once I'd signed my return trip to Dunkerque, I looked forward to celebrating another Carnaval de Dunkerque.

  This year, I fully knew what to expect. And while I participated in two events again (of the six-week Dunkerque Carnival season), instead of being spaced out by three weeks, they were on back-to-back days. I wasn't sure if I was going to make it to the finish line!

Inside the ball.
Bal des Gigolos et Gigolettes
  Each Saturday evening, from January 19th through March 2nd, the Dunkerque Kursaal (convention center) hosts a Carnival ball. My teammates and I would attend the Bal des Gigolos et Gigolettes (I have no idea why the balls are named what they are -- last year I went to the Bal du Chat Noir).

  Since we had no game to play on this particular Saturday, we gathered early in the evening to get our costumes ready, eat, and get prepared for a long night at the ball.

  Last year, I was a cross between the Jolly Green Giant and a leprechaun. Unsure if I wanted a repeat performance, I sifted through other costume options (usually, Carnival-goers have the same costume year after year, but I didn't mind changing). My teammates who were from Dunkerque, brought bags of Carnival clothes for us out-of-towners to choose from. Bags filled with colorful boas, gloves, tights, hats, and glasses. I guess after a while, you accumulate quite a collection!

Val, V, and Seb.
  We had a fairly late arrival to the ball (10-plus girls getting ready can take a while, you know!), but once we arrived to the Kursaal the sights were familiar: a large ballroom packed with colorful, costumed, party-goers.

  The ballroom had a circular 'safezone' -- with gates enclosing it -- in the center, and a band playing music on stage in the back. There also were bar-areas scattered throughout the ballroom.

  Surrounding the safe-zone was the action-filled part of the ball, and Carnival: the constant parade around the Kursaal ballroom. This is the area I avoided. The 'first line' braces themselves while trying to hold the rest of the crowd from advancing. You can imagine it gets a little rough. So that is why I steer clear. No need to roll an ankle or twist a knee at Carnival!

Video of the 'first line'...

  Every hour or so, the band alternates between playing Carnival music and 'regular' music. It's during the times of Carnival music that the parade around the ballroom occurs. And every person is singing. I definitely learned some of the tunes, but not many of the words!

  While the band plays regular music, the ball resembles any ol' party. But once the music changes, it's back to Carnival! This was the pattern for the entire night, and lasted well into the morning.

Group picture from Saturday's ball.
  After several hours (I won't tell you what time I got home Sunday morning), my legs were almost numb, and my back throbbing. I had had enough, so it was time go home, and get some rest. I knew I had a second day of Carnival ahead of me, so I needed to pace myself!

Bande de Malo-les-Bains
  Unlike the balls, the bandes (bands) are in a different location each weekend during Carnival. Each neighborhood in Dunkerque hosts a bande (usually on a Sunday), and February 17th, was my neighborhood's turn.

  I live along the beach in Malo-les-Bains, so on this particular Sunday, I would have an bird's eye view of the bande.

  The bande is essentially a parade through the streets. This is a tamer sort of parade, however (versus the ones at the balls). A marching band is at the front of the line, of course playing the same Carnival songs as always, while a huge crowd of people follow behind.

This is what the digue looked like most the day Sunday.
  As I went to sleep early Sunday morning after the ball, my ears were ringing. The sounds and music from the party still making their presence felt. Unfortunately, that would be what I woke up to as well. My ears were no longer ringing, but the sound of music blasting woke me far-earlier than I expected.

  You see, I live above a bar in Malo. And usually that bar is pretty tame. Though, not on this Sunday morning! Only five hours after going to sleep, I was up, and reluctantly ready to go. The party for the Bande de Malo-les-Bains was already underway, and apparently the bar below me was one of the hot spots. Lucky me. 

Here it come the bande!
  By 12:30 I was back next door at my teammate's apartment, getting ready for our second consecutive day of Carnival. No rest for the weary, huh?

  We spent most of the afternoon outside. It was a nice day (for mid-February), so spending the day outdoors was manageable. We walked the streets, people-watching and seeing the sights of Carnival in Malo. That's what everyone else was doing too.

  The bande would come through the digue (boardwalk) around five o'clock. We wanted to be back upstairs in our apartments by then to see the parade of colors from above. Even though I lived in the same apartment last year, I didn't get to see the Bande de Malo. I had been out of town, so I was really looking forward to seeing the parade pass by my window!

  You could see the bande approaching in the distance along the digue. The music got louder, the colors became more-vibrant, and the umbrellas grew bigger and bigger. The huge wave of people was on its way!

  We all readied our cameras, and took as many pictures and videos as we could. Quite a sight!

The bande passing by...

  Soon after the bande passed, a few of my teammates and friends headed back outside to finish their Carnival day. But I was done. Unfortunately, the bar below wasn't done. Their music thumped from below til about 9:30 that evening.
Group picture Sunday.
My ears and my nerves were thrilled when it stopped -- finally some peace and quiet!

  It was a long and tiring weekend. But it was also a lot of fun! The Carnival in Dunkerque isn't something I'll soon forget.

  You're never sure when you'll get to experience something like that again, so I wanted to make sure to take advantage!

Getting costumes and makeup ready Saturday!
Just about ready.
Melissa finishing her joker look.
No Jolly Green Giant this year.
Finally ready to go!
The ball.

Bal des Gigolos et Gigolettes.
Friends having fun.
The first line holding the crowd back.
Guilb and Cyrille.
I found a heart on the ground!
Sunday on the beach.
Carnival is rough of some people.
The digue, from the beach.
Awaiting the bande.
V and Lily.
Waiting for the bande to arrive.
Me in Malo.
A professional picture from Bande de Malo.
Video of the scene below my apartment for most of the day Sunday...
The band is in all yellow.
Passing by.


Post a Comment