Saxons on Bay Street at the New Year’s Day Parade.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
Boxing Day and New Year’s Day parades featuring thousands of participants have been scrapped for the 2020/2021 season, government and Junkanoo officials confirmed yesterday.
The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture said “physical Junkanoo activities” will be relaunched next spring, meaning the physical parades will not be hosted on December 26 and January 1 like normal.
The statement came after the Tribune reported yesterday that the Shell Saxons Superstars, the reigning champion of both parades, has halted preparations and abandoned hopes of defending their crowns five months from now. Saxons co-chair Kendenique Campbell-Moss said this is the first time in her 42-year experience that the parades will not happen like normal.
In a separate statement, Dion Miller, chairman of the Junkanoo Corporation of New Providence, said plans for how 2020/2021 Junkanoo season will manifest “are still in the process of being finalised”.
He said the JCNP has been in talks for the past eight weeks with the Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Youth, Sports & Culture, the Ministry of Health and corporate sponsors like BTC, Kalik and Rubis about conducting the parades post COVID-19.
“We ended those sessions in agreement that due to health and safety concerns for both Junkanoos and the viewing public as well as the financial constraints that both our partners in government and corporate Bahamas that sponsors the parades are currently experiencing it would be in the best interest that traditional Junkanoo parades which host between 7000 to 9000 spectators not take place this year,” the JCNP said.
Health officials advised the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture on July 16 that they could not support hosting cultural activities at this time given the status of COVID-19 in the country.
“The health and safety of our citizens, residents, and visitors are paramount to this government and its decision-making,” the ministry said in a statement yesterday. “Hence, considering the volatile state of affairs surrounding the COVID19 phenomena, we must err on the side of caution and stand with our sister Ministry of Health. Further, it has been predicted that the effects of the pandemic are likely to continue up to the end of 2021. Despite our country’s active management of the spread of COVID-19, many businesses are struggling to rebound, the hotel industry and the wider tourism sector virtually remain at a stand-still. However, as a Ministry, we are confident that the COVID-19 pandemic dilemma is but for a season, and together our industries, our economy and our nation will rebound.”
“We encourage every Bahamian and Junkanoo stakeholder to support the Stay Safe Virtual Parade Platform that will preserve this unique expression of our cultural heritage in the form of creative arts, rhythm, dance and the pulsating sounds of the goatskin drums and cowbells vital to creating a quality Junkanoo Parade experience,” the ministry said. “Guided by the Ministry of Health, the ministry, supported by the National Junkanoo Committee, and partnership with the Junkanoo Corporation of New Providence (JCNP) together with the wider Junkanoo Community throughout the islands of The Bahamas stand unified in strategizing a Strategic Plan to relaunch physical Junkanoo activities commencing spring, 2021. To assist with the execution of an agreed and approved strategic plan for the relaunch of Junkanoo, the Government of The Bahamas has made a 2020/2021 budgetary allocation.”
Wendell Francis, chairman of the Roots, said even a scaled back, virtual parade should be competitive.
“Our members, sponsors and fans would want a competition of some sort,” he said. “I suggest that what we do is have a small competition possibly involving categories like step down costume, best off the shoulder, best drummer, best choreography. If they do that, that’s fine, we’ll participate. But as Roots we understand the situation worldwide with COVID-19. Many of our members are in dire straits. But if the situation reverses and the virus disappears, we would be prepared if the parade takes place.”