Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis said the Tobago Heritage Festival remains vital to the island's tourism thrust.
At the virtual launch of the 34th edition on Wednesday, Dennis said the annual festival presents an opportunity to package Tobago to the world.
The theme this year is Resilient Tobago: remembering her roots with responsibility..
The opening night show took viewers on a virtual journey showcasing memorable clips from past heritage festivals, including the popular Moriah Ole Time Wedding, Canaan/ Bon Accord's It takes a village to raise a child presentation, the riveting Folktales and Superstitions presentation from Les Coteaux, Charlotteville's Natural Treasures Day, goat racing in Buccoo and Plymouth's Tobago Ole Time Carnival.
Dennis said, “Tobagonians are known for our creativity, we are known for our food, our unique dance, our unique music, the way we live now and even the way we lived in the past – those are the things that define Tobagonians and our uniqueness.
"Therefore, the Tobago Heritage Festival presents an opportunity for us to package that and sell it to the world. It also presents an opportunity for us to welcome persons who may wish to experience our way of life and really integrate them into that.”
Dennis is hopeful that this festival and even other festivals unique to Tobago will be a tremendous selling point for the tourism sector, even as efforts are being made to open gradually .
“I want to encourage all our creatives, all our stakeholders and even the leaders within the Tobago Festivals Commission who are responsible for planning and engaging the stakeholders and to ensure that we are able to pull this festival off, even during the most difficult period we have been experiencing.
Dennis urged stakeholders to develop the Tobago Heritage Festival experience and other local festivals in a more meaningful way.
Tobago Festivals Commission Ltd CEO John Arnold hailed the festival's growth and looks forward to the virtual presentations for the second straight year.
“We’re so happy that we’ve been able to utilise technology and to utilise the skills and shared resources of several of the agencies of the Tobago House of Assembly. And together, we’ve been able, along with the stakeholders, to make a festival a really, really splendid one for 2021.”
Tobago Festivals chair Dr Denise Tsoiafatt-Angus said Tobagonians must remember their roots despite the lack of physical interactions at the popular festival.
She said, “Regardless of the circumstances that we have, it is within us to bounce back. We have a responsibility to remember our roots, show appreciation for what our ancestors have done and understand that we have a responsibility to preserve the memories and also to build on them to foster freedom and prosperity for future generations.”
She said the 2020 virtual experience garnered over 220,000 views, as she made mention that the results and reactions of the virtual crowd were a firm thumbs-up for what creativity, collaboration and resolve can produce even in the face of a pandemic.
While the festival, which runs for several weeks is expected to end in early September, no budget as well as calendar of events has been given.
Tobago Heritage Festival 2021 events:
Emancipation concert – August 1
Tobago Heritage Academy – August 2
Folk Fiesta Challenge – August 3
Heritage Fetsval webinar series –August 9, 16, 23, 30
Expo Art Tobago – August 13, 20
Ms Tobago Heritage Personality show – September 11