Hundreds-no, thousands-lined the streets of Roseau today to gape at the wonders of Mas Domnik, Dominica's unique Carnival dubbed "The Real Mas".

There were Blackies as dark as midnight; Colihaut Ban Mové in zombie outfits dancing to monotonous bam-bam-bambam-bam of drums; Moko Jumbies as tall as the clouds and Carnival Queen Contestants showing off their beauty. And, of course, there was Andy Carter, the perennial one-man band, this time mocking Baroness Patricia Scotland in a "sou say cel" display.

The annual parade that heralds the opening of Carnival began promptly at 3.00 pm on a bright and sunny Saturday afternoon on Victoria Street; the masqueraders then danced down the Dame Eugenia Charles Boulevard and dispersed at the Windsor Park Stadium where the real party began.

But before the fun started the crowd listened to Irene John, the Mayor of Roseau who warned potential troublemakers to leave their quarrels out of Carnival. She also said "don't litter"- but how many were listening?

Ian Douglas, who was representing the minister of culture, said Carnival is part of Dominica's heritage, an important reminder of the region's history of slavery.

"Carnival embodies and exemplifies who we are," he said.

Robert Tonge, the minister of tourism, described Mas Domnik as the most spontaneous in the Caribbean because everyone can participate at a moment's notice.

"Join a band, create a group," he said.