Several vendors at the second annual Tobago Street Fair complained bitterly on the opening night on Friday of a lack of organisation, citing poor placement of tents serving as booths, scant lighting to display goods, a poor turnout of patrons, and lack of advertising of the event.
The Street Fair took place over the weekend, ending Sunday, along Milford Road in Crown Point. With the fair beginning just after 6pm, vendors started to feel the brunt of technical faults with returning vendor, artist Collis Thomas, noting:
“For sure last year was better, for the opening night there was a better flow of persons. It had better organisation last year. It was clear that it had better planning, and there was more advertisement.”
Asked about this for the night, Thomas, a Tobago-born artist stated:
“It is now after 11pm and I haven’t seen the buyers as yet. However, buyers could come at any time. Last year like now, I would have sold two paintings already. How I am seeing it, is that the tourism sector is (experiencing) a turn down, I don’t think it have the real buyers in the country at this time.”
Thomas was noted the unsatisfactory state of the amenities this year at the Street Fair.
“Last year, I was under an illuminated tent and I was satisfied,” he said, explaining that this year he had to string his art pieces along a galvanized fence in a dark area.
“I am very disturbed at this moment… I don’t have a proper lighting system. I was telling them (the organisers) they could have run a light, and to make matters worse the street light eventually cut off,” he added, noting that the cost to participate in the Street Fair had increased from $300 to $900 for two days of display - Friday night and Saturday.
Also expressing displeasure with the poor amenities offered was returning Trinidad-based vendor, Arlene Bain Jardine of ABJ Fashion and Accessories.
Jardine stated, “Last year was much better, this year communication was lacking.”
She said she did not receive services which were supposed to be included in the booth package.
“They (organisers) promised lighting and for some reason it did not happen. I ended up paying for a light just to illuminate my booth. Additionally, the costing of the booth was three times the cost that it was last year, and we did not get tents with backdrops in case of rain,” she said.
Though acknowledging that her sales on the opening night were “alright”, Jardine was unhappy that not enough was done to promote the Street Fair this year.
“I believe that there is a lack of information out there because a lot of people were not aware that this Street Fair was taking place. Where we are situated this year, is also a problem. Last year we (vendors) were all on one side of the street in one line and there were around 20 booths but now we are disjointed, in clusters in opposite sides of the road, so people are not really interested. It’s not even picking up, there is no vibe like last year,” she said.
“Last year was amazing and I was all hyped to return. I came with more stocks because I knew what it was like last year but this year it is not like that at all. Whatever the reasons, the committee needs to sit and revisit the concept if they want to continue with this event. I will not be returning unless they can assure me that there will be improvement in communication and the provision of sufficient amenities,” she said. Jardine also noted that she had to shoulder the burden of the unpredictable sea bridge to get to the Fair and back to Trinidad, finding accommodation for and paying her staff to come to work for the event.
“It does not work out for me if it is not organised and advertised properly. Last year, they advertised in Trinidad, they didn’t advertise as much in Tobago and there was an influx of people here. I didn’t hear any advertisements in Trinidad this year,” she added.
First time vendor at the Street Fair, Catoya Sandy of Tobago-based Royal Creations, an event decoration business, said she came to her offerings business but encountered several hiccups as a result of poor organisation.
“We had no electricity earlier on. Luckily one of the generous businessmen assisted us with that because our decoration requires lighting. We had to scale back on the full display due to low voltage,” she said.