The show goes on
Despite the government’s decision to withdraw its support from this year’s Bahamas Carnival, participants, spectators and the event’s organizers, Polantra Media, are dubbing the three-day series of events a success.
Speaking to The Nassau Guardian at a carnival concert at Clifford Park on Saturday night, Polantra Media President Trevor Davis said carnival demonstrated the organizers were able to match the previous years, when the Christie administration sponsored carnival.
“With the attendance over this weekend, it definitely put us in a position to have a bigger attendance next year, not only from the locals, but from the international market, because we already started our international marketing,” Davis said.
The Minnis administration announced early on in its term that it will not fund carnival.
Soon after, Polantra Media, a company formed by Davis, Kenny Mackey and businessman Sebas Bastian, cemented itself as the forerunner for the concert series.
The group decided to do away with the Music Masters competition, which previously featured a night of solely Bahamian artists competing for prizes.
The word “Junkanoo” was also removed from the festival’s name in order to separate the two experiences, according to the organizers.
The inaugural Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival in 2015 cost the Christie administration $12.9 million.
The Bahamas National Festival Commission (BNFC) reported that the 2016 carnival cost $9.8 million, of which $8.1 million was subsidized by the government.
The 2017 carnival report has yet to be released.
Davis said on Saturday night that, while he could not give an overall cost or attendance numbers, the group intends to release a report on the concert series.
“We would be able to give everybody the numbers within a few weeks when we do all of our tallying up,” Davis said.
“We would be happy to present it to the country and let the country know how much we appreciate them, because without the Bahamian people, this night would not have been a success.
“Even though we are a private entity, we are still going to make a report, because, at the end of the day, it’s a partnership.
“It takes more than just us as Polantra Media to build this carnival.
“It takes the whole Bahamas, and this is a nation-building event, and I want everybody to understand that it’s an opportunity to bring new money in the country.”
Davis said the group has great hopes for the future of the event.
Bastian, who also spoke to The Nassau Guardian on Saturday night, said next year’s Bahamas Carnival will put more “heads in beds”.
“It has some adjustments to make, and it’s now in the private sector’s hands, and we are just going to make it bigger and bigger and bigger,” Bastian said.
“I always say achieve the original objective, which is to bring people to our shores.
“Next year that’s going to be our mandate.
“We are going to fill every hotel in this country when carnival weekend comes.”
Bastian also announced that the dates for next year’s event have already been decided for the weekend of May 4.
He added that next year will see the return of the Music Masters competition.
“We just didn’t have time to make it a part of this one, and we are going to focus on promoting Bahamian artistry,” Bastian said.
The main attraction for this year’s event was United States-based producer DJ Khaled, who hosted Saturday night’s concert and brought out dancehall artist Mavado as a surprise guest.
Bahamian artists Dyson Knight and Wendi also performed.
For a third year, king of soca Machel Montano headlined the Saturday night concert.
The concert ended shortly before 4 a.m.
There was also a Friday night concert with popular soca artist Destra Garcia as the headliner.
During the day on Saturday scores of carnival enthusiasts danced through the streets of New Providence in colorful costumes, decked out in jewels, feathers, paint and more, while music blared from trucks.
Hundreds more people lined the streets, some families with children, some tailgating from their vehicles and under tents, spectating and even joining in the Road March.
Some people, however, took issue with the almost-two-hour delay in starting the Road March, and the time it took the carnival bands to move along the route.
But many of the participants and the spectators said they had no problem with the wait.
“I’d wait all day; it doesn’t matter to me,” said Denzel March, 56.
“This is beautiful. I hope this gets bigger and better.”
Jeff Moncur, an accountant, who also watched from the sidelines, shared his view on this year’s event.
“I think it went well,” said Moncur, a Junkanoo enthusiast.
“I think the government only should get involved in carnival in terms of the marketing of it.
“I think the groups have done an excellent job this year in promoting it and putting it on.
“If you look around, out here is packed; people are excited, and I think in a couple years, you will see carnival really take off.
“A two-hour delay is a bit of a concern, but as the years go on, you will see some improvement.”
Adreann Thompson, who watched from the sidelines with her children and other family members, said, “We decided to bring our children out here for them to enjoy it as well.”
People from throughout the Caribbean and the United States also participated.
It was Adele White’s third time participating in Bahamas Carnival.
White, a native of Bermuda, said the Road March was not very organized.
“That could [just] be my section, but it’s awesome anyway,” White said.
“… There’s no security, so there [are] people jumping in. Last year was better. Last year was my better experience anyway.”
Shawn Ali and Afranna Ali, who are from The Bronx, New York, said they loved it.
“Bahamas took it to another level,” Shawn Ali said.
“I thought it was going to be nice and soft and [I’d] have a relaxing time, but I’m wilding out and I’m getting turned up.”
Dave Weekes, who was in wheelchair throughout the parade, said he had a good time while participating.
“I’ve been here three days, non-stop feting, non-stop niceness, except for the rain [on Friday], but other than that it was nice,” said Weekes, who is from Brooklyn, New York.
Alex Valdez brought his family from Miami to participant in the Road March.
Valdez, who spoke while his five-year-old son sat on his shoulders, said, “It’s nice; everything’s good; we love it.”
Asked why he decided to bring his family, Valdez said because “carnival is a family experience”.
For Charles Cooper, a teacher, the Road March was an opportunity to get ideas for Junkanoo.
“The event was a success,” Cooper said.
“It’s really nice. For me personally, I came out here to get ideas in terms of feathering, in terms of colors for Junkanoo.
“They still could use a little tweaking, but I think they [are] doing a good job, especially how they didn’t have the support from the government this year.”
Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar said yesterday he believes the government made the right decision to pull out of the event.
“It was very well-attended,” he said.
“It had lots of participants, and apparently it was slightly disorganized, but I think it went off quite well.
“My initial reports are that it was certainly no worse than previous years, and the beautiful thing about it is that it didn’t cost the government a dollar.
“I hear that the organizers spent under $1 million.
“So the question needs to be asked: What happened to the other $27 million that those people spent when they did it?
“So this is what happened: Our decision was right to put it in the hands of the private sector, because they did it for a reasonable amount.
“I’m delighted it went ahead. I’m delighted that citizens stepped forward; the private sector stepped forward and ran a fairly successful carnival.”
Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications