April 15, 2016
Carnival bands are "boycotting" this year's Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival Road Fever event, according to Bahamas Carnival Band Owners Association President Dario Tirelli.
But Bahamas Festival Commission (BNFC) Chairman Paul Major said last night that since the bands have decided to "privatize" the parade, the commission supports that and there will not be another parade to boycott.
Speaking to The Nassau Guardian, Tirelli said, "Carnival is about the parade.
"We have people coming in from all over the world to come on the parade and we feel as though we own the parade. So we decided to boycott that... I hand delivered a letter requesting the commissioner of police to have our own parade on the same day, Saturday, May the 7, starting at two various locations that we think will be good for our revelers."
In its letter to Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade, the association asks for approval to "commence at 9 a.m. from Island Gas Company at Milo Butler [Highway] and Fire Trail Road intersection, then head south on Milo Butler to Carmichael, west on Carmichael to Gladstone Road, north on Gladstone Road to J.F.K. Drive, east on J.F.K. Drive to Tonique Williams-Darling intersection and then to Mario's Bowling Alley."
The Road Fever for the inaugural Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival started at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium and ended at Arawak Cay.
Tirelli said the association decided to take the "drastic measure" for a number of reasons, including the fact that they were not given seed money this year.
"We are not getting the support [and] the prime minister had promised us that he was going to support us financially with seed money for three years minimum," he said.
According to a Bahamas National Festival Commission report that was released last July, $900,000 was spent on seed funding. Tirelli said band owners also took issue with who is being allowed on the Road Fever march. Tirelli claimed the BNFC's decision to allow the National Insurance Board to participate in the march is an insult to bands that had to go through a stringent process to become certified.
"They allowed National Insurance [Board] to bring 150 people on the parade without purchasing costumes or even making contact with the registered bands," Tirelli said. "... We very much suspect that the other companies are also requesting that and if they open that floodgate that means we will lose our income [and] our hard effort to initiate this industry.
"We feel as though any company that comes in and missed the opportunity to get certified should not have the opportunity to come on the parade. We don't need them trailing in the back of us. We are willing to make the costumes for any private company."
Tirelli said a better alternative would have been to allow the National Insurance Board to join a band and allow it to have its own section in the band of its choice.
In a statement last night, the BNFC said, "It has always been the vision of the BNFC to move towards a privatization model for some aspects of Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival, including Road Fever.
"The BNFC pledges to continue supporting the shared goals it has with the association to maximize economic opportunities for small businesses and harness the creative talent of our cultural entrepreneurs. While no further subsidies will be provided to the companies, the commission will continue to market the festival and promote all of the registered Road Fever companies as originally planned.
"The commission fully supports the move to privatize the event, while remaining open to dialogue with the association in an effort to ensure a successful event. The main goal at hand is to create a positive and safe environment for the thousands of Bahamians and visitors who wish to participate in the signature street parade of Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival. Having laid the groundwork in 2015, we are proud to see the association take charge of this initiative."
Earlier this month, commission chairman Paul Major confirmed that this year's entire carnival budget will be around $7 million.
In March, Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe said the government's carnival budget would be "around $3 million". However, he added that, "Work on the final number is still being done."
In 2015, the government spent $11.3 million on the inaugural festival, going over its initial budget of $9 million.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Perry Christie dismissed the criticism over capital spending on Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival and insisted that the festival will have a "significant impact" on the economy. Christie told The Nassau Guardian that carnival has also created new business opportunities for the carnival bands.
Carnival 2016 is set to take place on Grand Bahama on April 14-16 and on New Providence on May 5-7.
The lineup of artists include renowned Trinidadian soca singer Destra; former Fugees rapper Wyclef Jean; Rake and Scrape singer D Mac; Bahamian band Visage; Jamaican reggae artist Tarrus Riley and Cuban singer Laritza, among others. Major confirmed that Destra will be paid $30,000 and Wyclef will receive $70,000.
Guardian Staff Reporter
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