Happiness is the true measure of success!”
So sings Machel Montano as the intro to his hit Soca tune “Happiest Man Alive.” For many carnival revelers who on Carnival Monday and Tuesday truly came out to “hurt it,” that yardstick for happiness may be true. For others, who received a jab-en-sac instead of the advertised costumes they paid for, it was a different story. But that’s for another show.
On Wednesday, following the two days of street jump-up, the Carnival Planning and Management Association (CPMA), mandated by govern-ment to organize Carnival 2014 was, as usual, declaring their event’s success. Of course, CMPA head Lyndon Arnold was less than forthcoming when it came to stating the criteria by which such success was measured.
Lord Help Me, a former calypsonian and songwriter, especially famous for his red-ink addiction, echoed Arnold’s sentiments during a televised news insert. His assertion was based on his assumption that the final weekend of carnival events had scored greater numbers than in previous years. This, in the absence of any proof.
That Carnival Monday and Tuesday appeared to have been successful may be true. Nine bands came out, the event was relatively incident-free by police account, and there were lots of spectators on the street.
But that is only part of the story. Carnival was due to start on June 9 and culiminate with the two-day street parade on Carnival Monday and Tuesday, July 21-22.
Closer examination of the costumes may have revealed China’s (not Taiwan’s) contribution.
Of the nine bands, while some attracted in excess of 800 revelers, one could only pull about twenty-five and at least two others less than one hundred. Then there was the route that boxed revelers in away from the roadside shops and trays—much to the annoyance of de malayway and ghetto people on Jeremie street, Chaussee Road, Leslie Land and Marchand.
But then even the vendors along the prescribed route complained bitterly about low sales and the taxes imposed by Mayor Shirley Lewis.
As I said, Carnival 2014 started off on the usual mal pied of money-related controversies. The government-appointed CPMA that was installed only a few months before the event, then handed a million dollars spending money. Clearly, the planning started much too late—as is normal here. From the get-go, uncertainty plagued the events. The official opening at the Mindoo Phillip Park was a dismal failure. The venue was near deserted, the entertainment lapo.
For the most part, Calypso took a beating: the tents suffered badly, although an amalgamation of TOT and Soca Village held its own during the season. The Ambassadors, once the jewel in the calypso crown, was MIA this time around. The reason given? Unprepared calypsonians and no money.
Then there were the CPMA events, including the National Carnival Queen Pageant and King and Queen of the Bands. The first mentioned, once carnival’s the pride and joy, and staged at comfortable venues, failed in the NCC’s galvanized setting to turn a profit for its organizers. Over the past two years the event has lost more than EC$200,000. This year will prove no different.
Even the free Soca semis and the King and the Queen of the Bands were not enough to attract large crowds. By all accounts the ritual King and Queen event went on only to save face.
A few New York-based Saint Lucians arrived toward the week’s end, doubtless unable to resist Jet Blue’s low fares. While many stayed with relatives and friends, a few took advantage of the discounted hotel rates. In any event some hoteliers reported that the marginal increase in terms of arrivals did not deliver more dollars.
The more successful events of the final week of carnival were privately produced, among them Red Unlimited’s Colour Me Red, Red Eye, The Wave’s Sexy in Black, Just4Fun’s Escape, Breakfast Fete and Jab Jab.
The CPMA-Steel Pan Association’s Panorama was a bust. Would-be patrons were left outside the venue for at least an hour while organizers searched for the keys to the gates. I’m informed that tickets had to be printed on the night for the event. The long lulls in between the bands did not help.
Calypso well-produced finals on Carnival Saturday and Sunday’s Soca Monarch attract a fairly good crowd to Beausejour. J’ouvert also appeared to be on the rebound.
Overall, however, while Carnival revelers and fanatics may have come out in a bacchanal rampage to “hurt it,” the majority probably were the ones who got hurt by the amateurism that ruled the season.
But then I am writing from my perspective, unhindered by the rose-tinted glasses that are the organizers’ most treasured accessory!