By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
BAHAMAS National Commission Chairman Paul Major said the Junkanoo Carnival’s kick off in Grand Bahama over the weekend was “extraordinarily successful” with officials pegging the turnout at an estimated 30,000 over the two-day period.
Responding to social media reports that the inaugural event flopped, Mr Major told The Tribune yesterday that he had never heard such an untruth in all his life. He said the event far exceeded his expectations.
Royal Bahamas Police Force officials, according to Mr Major, reported yesterday morning that there were 10,000 people gathered for Junkanoo Carnival on Friday, while an additional 20,000 others attended on Saturday.
However, he said he was unable to give specific figures of the financial impact to Grand Bahama as officials were still in the process of crunching the numbers.
People flocked to Taino Beach at Grand Bahama for the semi-final round of the Junkanoo Carnival Music Masters Competition and also to participate in other festivities on Friday and Saturday. The concert saw 10 semi-finalists chosen for the final round of the song competition which will take place in Nassau when carnival begins on the island in 17 days.
“I can’t think of a bigger lie (that Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival was not a success),” Mr Major said. “It was extraordinarily successful by any measurement. I personally didn’t expect to see more than 4,000 people turn out for any of the nights.
“By the time we got done with the festivities at around 3am it was quite difficult to find food. The vendors ran out of food. I don’t think anyone expected that turnout. They even ran out of Kalik beer on Friday night and I think Saturday night as well. All of the vendors sold out. So the vendors on the site, the hotels, car rental companies, airlines…every one saw returns and did well.
“How could you not call that a success? It exceeded everyone’s expectations. And I will go as far as to say that I was beyond shocked at what took place in Grand Bahama this weekend.”
Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe said the success of the Grand Bahama event signalled bigger and better things for New Providence. Junkanoo Carnival takes place in Nassau May 7 to 9.
However, he said, the true success of carnival would not be seen in its first year but by the ability of the government to hold the event in the following years.
He said: “Overwhelming crowds showed up in Grand Bahama and we know that the island has struggled economically for many years.
“Hotel bookings, car rentals, the airlines, beverage companies, they all did well.
“So we expect that Nassau is likely to be a larger undertaking, as crowds will not only come from around the Bahamas but there will be a considerable number of tourists on the island.
“This allows for the proliferation of our culture and the development of cultural activities throughout the world.”
Since the government announced plans to launch the initiative, Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival has been shrouded in controversy. Cultural activists have said it was an insult to not only Bahamian culture, but to those who pioneered its progression.
Free National Movement Leader Dr Hubert Minnis has said that rather than promote Junkanoo Carnival, the government’s focus should be on expanding Junkanoo so that “other artists, like reggae artists, can incorporate it into their music” instead.
The Bahamas Christian Council has also opposed, saying it would not support the “immodest” costumes for the planned event, saying the scant attire could lead to “fornication, promiscuity, rape, incest” and other “sins of the flesh”.
The Christie administration proposed to spend $9m on the initiative. However, government officials have said the event is way under budget.
Prime Minister Perry Christie has said that the government expects to generate $30m for the Bahamas’ economy from carnival.