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Patrons dance as water is poured over them during the party.

Soaka Till Sunrise was described by many as the ultimate end to WOW Events three-day festival, the Soaka Music and Arts Festival.

With water cannons, copious amounts of paint and powder, patrons welcomed the sunrise drenched in colour as soca superstar Machel Montano took to the stage, brought on by a stunning fireworks display.

Montano’s almost hour-long performance saw Iwer George and Skinny Fabulous joining him for their 2020 collaboration, Conch Shell.

The song has been slowly gaining momentum and after the trio’s power-packed performance, many festival-goers commented that the song could be a strong contender for Road March 2020.

If it does take the title, it will be Montano’s 11th road march win and Skinny Fabulous’ second, after his 2019 collaboration with Montano and Bunji Garlin, Famalay.

The event began at 3 am and before the gates opened, patrons were already lined up at the Queen’s Park Savannah.

Garlin was the first artiste to take the Soaka stage around 4 am and his performance woke festival-goers up.

After Montano’s performance, Aaron St Louis (Voice) took to the stage around 7.30 am. It didn’t take long for before Kees Dieffenthaller joined him and the two belted out their collaboration, Dear Promoter- which sent the crowd into a frenzy.

Artistes Lyrikal and Problem Child also performed on the Soaka stage.

On Friday night, when the festival opened at the Savannah, some patrons were not sure what to expect.

When you hear the title “Arts and Music Festival” in Trinidad and Tobago, it usually goes one of two ways – a predominantly, artsy show, with a few musical performances or an all-out fete.

Iron Park, the inaugural event of the Soaka Arts and Music Festival, was neither. WOW Events, the organiser for Soaka, managed to construct the perfect blend of a panyard, a rhythm section, and a fete but all held to the standards of what is typically seen in international music festivals.

Held in Queen’s Park Savannah, in the centre of Port-of-Spain, it certainly didn’t feel like it.

LED lights were strung up on trees, tents, and signs, with LED flower crowns resting on half the patrons’ heads. It presented the ideal photo opportunities for the Gen Z and millennial crowds. If those lights weren’t enough, each person was given a reusable cup (Go Green!) with a glow-in-the-dark base and glow stick necklaces.

Several food trucks, with food reasonably priced, and drink stations were also spread across the venue.

Sponsors, such as Jose Cuervo and White Oak, were also present, giving out sought after promotional items.

It also wasn’t overcrowded like a typical Carnival event either, which is something I think most appreciated.

Steel band performances by BP Renegades, Trinidad All Stars, Laventille Rhythm Section, Desperados, and Point Fortin Jammers were interjected by soca hits of 2019 and 2020 from headline DJ’s such as DJ Private Ryan, Travis World, and Alicia the Duchess.

As per usual, as the night went on, the crowds increased but as I moved through the festival grounds, speaking to patrons, most people who attended the event didn’t really know what to expect. Most who did show up only attended because Iron Park was included in the price for their RFID bands, mainly purchased for the main event on Sunday, Soaka Till Sunrise.

However, the feedback was resoundingly positive. Overall, it seemed like Iron Park was the much needed relaxed atmosphere needed before fetes ramped up this weekend.

The younger crowd in Trinidad and Tobago are sometimes seen as “bandwagonists” when it comes to steelpan.

We, me included, appreciate from a distance, but never actually show up to Panorama or other steel pan events.

However, Iron Park successfully made steelpan the focal point of a well-attended music festival while maintaining the vibe that we see with a fete, reinvigorating interest and enjoyment in people that would have seen pan as an afterthought.