Pandemic gets Buccoo's goat: Easter Tuesday tradition hit by effects of virus

White Goat races to first place at the Tobago Africans and Goat Owners' Goat, Crab Race and Calypso Day on March 1, 2020. It was one of the last events for goat racing in Tobago before the covid19 pandemic. Photo by David Reid  -
White Goat races to first place at the Tobago Africans and Goat Owners' Goat, Crab Race and Calypso Day on March 1, 2020. It was one of the last events for goat racing in Tobago before the covid19 pandemic. Photo by David Reid -

For the second consecutive year, Buccoo, Tobago, will not host one of the island’s most treasured pastimes – goat-racing – on Easter Tuesday.

Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis gave confirmation at the post executive council media briefing on Wednesday.

He said the action was necessary in light of the recent upsurge in covid19 cases. Tobago currently has 12 active covid19 cases

This year would have marked the 96th anniversary of goat racing, which has attracted thousands of visitors over the years.

Buccoo Village Council PRO Winston Perreira said the cancellation did not come as a surprise.

“I more or less expected it because I recognise that we have a situation where, I think, the authorities are not in full control or don’t have an explicit plan in place to ensure there is a continuance of economic activity,” he told Sunday Newsday.

“From my perspective, they are using generalised approaches to specific problems. But we have to take into consideration, the size of Tobago, the population, the data on the ground. That is what should drive policy, not the other way around.”

Saying he may not be privy to all of the information, Perreira said as a citizen living in Tobago he has experienced how the pandemic has continued to affect average citizens.

He said the authorities need to come up with a solution that will allow Tobago’s economy to operate to some degree in spite of the pandemic.

Handler Janelle Edwards urges her goat Answer the Call in goat racing in Tobago on April 22, 2019. There has been no goat racing for Easter for yet another year. Photo by David Reid -

“Because we are on an island connected to Trinidad. Anything that happens there impacts us directly.

“From that perspective, I think a plan should be crafted instead of just reacting to situations when the numbers rise. There are things that you can implement that would allow for activity to continue.”

The owner of Miller’s Guesthouse, which has been in operation for more than 50 years, Perreira said his colleagues in the accommodation sector in the village had “more or less hoped for the best but expected the worst.”

Describing Easter as a high point in the village’s social calendar, Perreira said celebrations in Buccoo usually kick-starts harvest festivities on the island.

He said the entire village, comprising mini marts, eateries, guesthouses tour boat businesses, has been affected by the cancellation of the goat racing.

“The Easter period is generally very busy, from accommodation and restaurants, boat tours. From a community perspective, it has created some level of discontent.”

He added: “But we also recognise that, as a people, we have to do what we have to do, especially in this time. We understand that situations like this would be necessary.”

To salvage some semblance of the popular event, Perreira said a virtual event is being arranged.

“People can still be aware of the event, preserve it and continue to market it. So when things come back to some form of normalcy we will be ready to go.”

Asked if he felt people will be interested in virtual goat-racing, Perreira said, “It is not only goat racing but a festival with all different types of components, culture and entertainment.

A costume parade is usually a highlight of the goat racing festival at Easter time in Tobago. This parade last took place on April 24, 2019. Photo by David Reid -

“If we create a package and include the actual main focal point, which is the goat racing, I think it can be relatively effective.”

Unity of the People leader Nickocy Phillips believes there could have been a scaled down goat racing event.

“I know we are in a pandemic but I am sensing that we are using this pandemic as an excuse for so many things,” he said.

Phillips said the Buccoo Integrated Facility has three different pavilions with significant seating capacity that could have been made covid19-ready for a scaled-down goat racing.

“I believe the Buccoo Village Council along with the health department had enough time to put things in place so that we could have at least had a goat and crab racing festival to try it out to see….We would have sectioned out and put all the public health measures in place to have a mini event.”

Phillips, who lives in Buccoo, said they could have also sold tickets online.

He also said he does not see the merit in hosting a virtual event later in the year.

“This does not make sense. Where is the accountability in it? How much money will be spent? How much is going to be put into this?”

Phillips added: “We are continuously using and putting out money for events after the said date of the event, which does not make sense. Something has to be wrong with the people of Tobago.

“If the Easter is passed and there is no goat race festivities, cancel it. I don’t think people want to sit down to watch any virtual goat racing. That is just a waste of time.”

Dennis, the Buccoo/Mt Pleasant representative, said he empathised with the organisers and businessmen in Buccoo.

“It is quite disappointing, of course. I know that not only the patrons but the organisers and goat owners are quite disappointed,” he told Sunday Newsday.

He said the goat owners will be affected.

“They are actually feeling this in their pockets. I know they were looking forward to compete and benefit financially as they usually do every year.”

Dennis, who is also the Secretary of Tourism, Culture and Transportation, added given the island’s challenges with the pandemic “we have to make the necessary sacrifices and put the safety and security of citizens above anything else.”

He said a virtual goat and crab racing event will likely be held later this year.

“So, the goat owners will be in a position to benefit pretty soon. This is expected to be sometime around May.”


"Pandemic gets Buccoo’s goat: Easter Tuesday tradition hit by effects of virus"

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