WHILE thousands raised their hands in joy at the Panorama semis yesterday at Queen’s Park Savannah, vendors were raising their hands to the heavens in sorrow, begging the Almighty for a break.
The North Park and Grand Stand were both well populated with people of all ages and walks of life come to hear the pan. Police officers, firemen and other officers of the security agencies were on hand to ensure law and order. But for many vendors, there was no joy and no money to be made despite the many thousands in attendance.
A combination of issues led to several vendors who would usually fill booths that are erected at the Savannah’s perimeter, missing out on the patronage of the pan fans at the semis. Vendors and the contractors who built the booths are now complaining that arrangements to have the booths built and licensed took too long to the point where vendors did not have time to set up shop before yesterday’s semis.
“Let me be frank. They take too damn long to start this and it shameful considering that the Carnival season is longer than normal,” said a contractor who yesterday was still overseeing the building of booths while nearby, pan bands were vying for a place in the finals.
“They had an entire year to organise and plan for these things and Carnival is only two days out of the year.” Newsday was told although the Carnival season is a long one, the booths had only begun to be built in the middle of January. One contractor told Newsday that workers had only begun painting the booths last week.
Contractors told Newsday that up to the night before the semis they were erecting as many booths as they could to allow the vendors an opportunity to make a living.
Even the booths that were already built had problems. Vendors and contractors complained that several booths, which cost between $900 and $1,500 to rent for the Carnival season, were missing hinges, locks for doors and electric wiring. Some did not have access to water, others didn’t even have a sink.
“This year is the worst,” said a vendor who has been coming to sell in the booths for the past 15 years. “This year we can’t even cook because we don’t have water or even a sink in the back to cook. We will have to see how much money we could make with the beers.”
The vendor said her neighbour had to close her booth and go back home because she had the same problem. “She couldn’t cook,” said the vendor, “how can you cook without clean water?” Vendors on the outside of the Savannah complained that licenses and allocations to booths took too long and resulted in several vendors not being able to set up their booths in time. They said after weeks of waiting some vendors were given licence to operate in the booths as late as Saturday night.
“If you look you will see some of the booths didn’t even have roof on top of them,” a vendor said. “I went to get a booth earlier this week and when I went to the booth allocated to me, I realised the roof was missing. I had to go back to the National Carnival Commission (NCC) and get another one.
Vendors pointed out that Panorama semis is usually their busiest time for the Carnival season since it is not an all-inclusive event and the many thousands would seek food and drink from the vendors. “When Carnival Monday and Tuesday come, we can’t make no money on those days since most mas bands now are all inclusive and have their own food and drink.
“The pan semis was where we make the bulk of our sales and as you can see, not all stalls are built and not all vendors have gotten their licenses,” said a vendor. NCC chairman Winston “Gypsy” Peters told Newsday that every Carnival, there are complaints about the vendors’ booths. “Whatever complaints we have we will work on it and try to see if we can fix it,” he assured.