The $43 million budget for this year’s entire ten-day Carifesta XIV programme was equivalent to the budget allocated for just the opening ceremony in 2006 when TT last hosted the festival, National Carnival Commission (NCC) CEO Colin Lucas said Friday night.
In a brief interview with Sunday Newsday at the celebration in the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain, Lucas said organisers of this year event joked good-naturedly when they saw the budget they had to work with.
“We are pleased with people’s response to what we offered. It certainly came with its challenges, namely funding, but we were able to give the public our best and for that we are appreciative of their response. We are quite happy with how they have responded so far,” said Lucas.
Lucas said he had worked alongside an incredible team, which had enabled the NCC to do “much with what they were given”.
Lucas held the post of logistics and operations co-ordinator for this year’s festival.
Culture Minister, Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, had previously indicated that this year’s Carifesta was expected to cost upwards of $39 million.
The festival, themed Connect, Share, Invest, opened on August 16 and ends today. Scores of people from across the country and the Caribbean, have visited the Grand Market at the Savannah since the start, although there have been events around the country.
Friday was TT’s dedicated country night, where local artists put on performances representative of the country’s culture.
Tobago Performing Company shines
At the Savannah on Friday patrons mingled, crowded stage-side and filled the festival food market in a bid to capture the full experience of Carifesta XIV.
Attention focused on the main stage, however, when the Tobago Performing Company began its vibrant, powerfully compelling presentation.
The performance opened with a narrative, as they danced across the stage, bamboo staffs in hand, in their white and brightly coloured outfits and head ties, skilfully weaving on and off the stage and at times returned with additional props, ranging from calabash bowls and clay jars, to straw baskets and even cocoyea brooms.
“Where them from boy, they real good,” whispered one attendee.
The group’s drummers also held their own, when, at the end of the dancers’ performance they engaged in a “jam session” with the First Citizens Dragon Boys Tassa Group.
Little Avindha Singh, could be heard long before he was seen, as he initially delivered his chutney song, behind curtain.
Curious whispers followed, as he eventually walked out and showed the audience why he earned the title of Junior Chutney Monarch 2019.
Earlier the St Margaret’s Boys Steel Orchestra, comprising some 40-plus youths ages five to 25, enthralled spectators with their performance of the Jackson 5 hit I Want You Back. The Caribbean Youth Orchestra also roused loud applause from the audience.
Then, during the first showcase of drumology for the evening, there was a mix of cultures, as six drummers and a grater player from TT, St Kitts & Nevis, Guyana, Jamaica and St Vincent, formed a drum circle.
One festival official said some 30 cultural groups had been scheduled to perform on Friday.
Quality family time
Proud grandmother of two, Ursula Braithwaite, said Friday night was her only opportunity to visit the festival. Not even baby-sitting duties stopped her, as she waited patiently for her daughter, who had been held back at work, to join her at the Savannah.
“Oh, we will walk around, let my grandkids eat some popcorn, ice cream, see the traditional characters and then head home.
“It’s me spending quality time with them and getting to finally see what Carifesta 2019 has to offer,” she said.
Serwa Phillips, eight, clutched at her mother’s skirts, appearing afraid, as the red and blue devils attempted to scare visitors out of their money.
Her mother, Dara, laughed and noted that her daughter had to be play acting, as she has “played mas since age three and was very familiar with traditional mas characters.”
Peeking out from behind her mother’s skirt, the little girl succumbed to the lure of a jab jab and tentatively touched his reddened finger tips.
“We are loving it. This is a family thing for us, the Original Jab Jab Band, from Couva, it’s all part of who we are,” said 19-year-old Renella Alfred and Lana Harry, 16, one of the whip-cracking jab jabs.
As for the food, one patron sipped her hot cup of corn soup and joked about her intention to “make it last, as the lines long, long”.
Throngs of people pushed their way through the Food Market in their attempts to try out the variety of national and regional dishes being offered.
Not everyone was happy about Carifesta. Taxi driver, Roy McMillan, 65, complained that since the festival began, his income took a hit because people preferred to drive to the festival or carpool than take a taxi.
And a vendor who sold drinks from a plastic bucket outside the main event called for more consideration for those who were unable to afford booths on the grounds of the Savannah, as they too had “back to school preparations to face just like any other citizen.”