By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
AFTER enraging festival stakeholders and participants with an impromptu date change, the Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival (BJC) is back on for its original date of May 4 to 6 in Nassau with an April kick off in Grand Bahama after an “intervention” by Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe.
Despite the news, band owners are still predicting big losses as a result of the confusion.
After two days of widespread backlash over a last-minute delay to the controversial festival and the cancellation of the Grand Bahama events, Mr Wilchcombe yesterday announced that the original dates were reinstated, along with the Grand Bahama component.
However, Bahamas Carnival Band Owners Association (BCBOA) President Dario Tirelli told The Tribune the event’s brand reputability and the 2017 festival have been dealt a major blow. He said bands have indicated that nearly 3,000 participants or “revellers” were expected to take part in the festival.
In a statement yesterday, it was explained that Mr Wilchcombe’s intervention was made after consultation with Prime Minister Perry Christie, and took into consideration the overwhelming cries of disadvantaged stakeholders and guests.
The statement indicated that the Ministry of Tourism plans to work closely with the Bahamas National Festival Commission (BNFC) as it ramps up marketing and promotion in New Providence and Grand Bahama.
“The Minister of Tourism said whilst he understands the thinking that led to the decision made by the Carnival Commission that resulted in the change of dates for the annual event,” the statement read, “the minister is satisfied that after full consideration of all matters pertaining to this year’s carnival an intervention was necessary.”
The statement continued: “The intervention was predicated by the voices of the local stakeholders and in consideration of the many guests who have made preparations to travel to the Bahamas for this year’s carnival on the original dates.”
Mr Tirelli said the bandowners would try to salvage the battered reputation of the event. “We’re all excited,” he said. “We’re meeting now to start planning and looking at countdown from today, and to coin our press release respectively to go to the world. We are going to try to make a concerted effort to turn this around, but we have lost.
“This is still a big financial loss, some people just ain’t coming. Persons have already cancelled their tickets, tried to get refunds, messed up their plans.”
Mr Tirelli also noted that bands will not be able to request any financial assistance from the government ahead of the festival to counterbalance the misstep, as Parliament will be dissolved on Tuesday.
“Even if we ask for refund by Tuesday the House (of Assembly) is dissolved. We presented them with a figure and we’re trying to be optimistic. We will try to see if we can salvage the reputability of carnival,” he added.
The complete turnaround comes two days after Mr Christie confirmed that the event had been postponed until after the general election.
In a press statement on Tuesday, the BNFC explained that it made the “difficult decision” to postpone the event to May 18 to 20, due to conflicts with the general election timetable. At that time, it announced that the Grand Bahama celebrations were cancelled altogether with the event downsized to just one island on one weekend.
Minister of National Security Dr Bernard Nottage has said the general election will be held in early May, but a specific date has not yet been announced.
In the wake of the earlier delay, scores of persons expressed shock and disgust that an event of its magnitude could be arbitrarily set aside, with many accusing organisers of sabotaging the fledgling event and negatively impacting the culture of the popular showpiece.
The BNFC and key stakeholders met on Tuesday over how best they could mitigate the local and international fallout from the impromptu date change for the third annual event, with insiders projecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses.
Last night, Mr Tirelli said he hopes that the debacle will sensitise the commission and the government on the importance of consultation with band owners. He noted that the BCBOA did not have any representation on the BNFC, despite their request.
Junkanoo Carnival will launch in Grand Bahama April 28 and 29 when the Music Masters semi-finals competition will be held.