Buccoo/Mt Pleasant Area representative Sonny Craig says the aim of the 2022 Buccoo Goat and Crab Race Festival is to preserve the annual event.
Speaking on Tuesday’s Rise and Shine morning programme on Tobago Channel 5, Craig delved a little into the scaled-down event planned under the theme “A Taste of Buccoo,” which was announced on March 31, a day after the Buccoo Village Council initially announced that the event would be cancelled for 2022.
On that occasion, in a press release issued by the village council, PRO Winston Pereira had said that owing to the “late notice of the repeal of the national covid19 health guidelines,” the village would not be able to host the event.
At the time, Pereira made it clear that the council was not involved with any other comparable activity that may be held in the neighbourhood throughout the Easter weekend of 2022. He said the village council has already started organising for the “thrilling return” of the festival in 2023.
A day later, that decision was reversed.
Speaking on March 31, Craig explained, long before the Prime Minister announced the lifting of restrictions a week earlier, the village council had taken the position that even if the restrictions were lifted, there would not be sufficient time to pull off a successful event.
“So they basically said, respectfully, that they would not be able to do it.
"But being the representative for the area and having conversations with the other stakeholders, we thought that it could come off – but it would not be that full-blown event. It would be a taste of Buccoo.”
At the time, Craig said as the area’s representative, he was approached by the goat owners and jockeys who had struggled when the event had been cancelled in 2020 and 2021 as a precaution against the spread of covid19.
“We were out of the loop for two years…The goat-race business is a dynamic business, because we are dealing with livestock, we dealing with a product that is not entirely indefinite in its ability to sustain itself.”
He said goat owners had reached the point where they are selling their animals “because they depend on this event yearly to keep them going.
In confirming that scaled-down activities would take place this year, Craig said the 2022 festival would not be the grand affair that patrons would have been accustomed to.
“We would have what most people are accustomed to – the crab races, the goat races.”
Craig urged people to attend.
“The crowds will be welcomed, because there are no longer safe zones, and we are going to pull it off successfully.”
Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Farley Augustine also sought to reassure patrons that some form of goat racing would take place in Buccoo over the Easter weekend.
“For Easter, we spoke to the folks down in Buccoo and Mt Pleasant. We getting information that they may not be 100 per cent there in terms of wanting to do the event.
"But the goat racers in Buccoo, they want to do the event. So I have asked the area representative (Craig) and the folks at tourism to plan for it, and we will have some goat-racing in Buccoo over the Easter,” he told reporters on Wednesday, after Baptist Liberation celebrations at the Mt Bethel Spiritual Baptist church, Scarborough.
On Tuesday, Craig said, “Right now, coming out of covid19 especially, there would be some jostling for market space in the tourism sector.
"Most countries, most destinations have their brand and Tobago’s brand, in my personal opinion, has not been clearly defined. But regardless, we have factors in our cultural expression that need to be preserved, need to be continually sold to John Public and the international market.”
Craig said, coming into office in January, he met with the village council in an effort to find a way to execute the goat and crab race festival.
“In January, covid19 was still very much around. The conversations were not direct and not conclusive because, what kind of goat race would we have?
"Would we have a virtual goat race? An event with no audience? Because we are talking about super-spreader events.
"The village council traditionally, needs like six months to pull it off the way it has been done over the last few years. We admit that."
He said as a result, the THA had taken up the responsibility and will just do a “Taste of Buccoo.”
The event scheduled for Tuesday at the Buccoo Integrated Facility, he said, “is really to preserve the art form, not just for the tourist market but for the owners, the jockeys and their survival.
Effective April 4, Dr Rowley removed the majority of covid19 restrictions, including safe zones. With that, THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said Tobago's struggling economy needed a bumper Easter season to offset some of the economic losses of the past two years of the pandemic.