Those of us who immensely enjoyed the beautiful lights and holiday ambiance these past nights in Frederiksted ought to express our gratitude to the Gentlemen of Jones, Rotary West, WAPA and various other civic-minded groups and businesses that made it all happen. This year, King Street and Budhoe Park were exceptionally beautiful.
The festival village, however, was another story. It amazes me that we have over forty years of experience in this business and the quality of our village has not significantly improved. You would think that by now we should be professionals at creating top-notch festival extravaganzas. At minimum, you would think that by now we would have nicely paved and well laid out festival grounds with good drainage; clean bathrooms with water and light; nicer booths equipped with running water; a permanent well-designed stage with state of the art acoustics and lighting to exhibit our people’s diverse talents and fine musical entertainment.
A few nights ago, as a few family members and friends were trying to enjoy the festival atmosphere, everything came to a sudden halt as a heavy downpour of rain unscrambled the crowd of several hundred villagers. Musicians hurriedly tried to cover their expensive equipment. Parents with toddlers in their arms and senior citizens ran for shelter under the FEMA blue tarps that were spread in between some of the booths. Several police officers ran into the booth of a friendly vendor. Everyone just scampered for whatever little shelter they could find. Then, as the rain subsided, people made a mad dash for their vehicles through deep puddles of water in uneven terrain and through thick mud. In the parking lot, a running stream of water blocked our path to the car. A few vehicles filled with children and parents were helplessly stuck in the mud. That night, the rain literally stopped the festival.
Of course, no one on this Earth can do anything about the timing of the God-sent precious rain; but much can be done about the design, planning and infrastructure of future festival villages and grounds.
After all these years, our festival village should look like a beautiful holiday theme park. It should be spectacular and exceptional in the Caribbean. It should be something to marvel and make us all proud. It should be a profitable revenue-generating cow for boosting our entertainment industry and tourism.
The fact is that we can do a whole lot more to preserve and enhance this wonderful Crucian fiesta tradition. However, besides mounting an extra special effort to upgrade the caliber of our village, we must also depart from the old last-minute approach and start planning immediately for Festival 2001. Perhaps, the same businesses that helped to illuminate Budhoe Park should sponsor and lead the planning of Festival Village 2001.
Carmelo Rivera is a business consultant on St. Croix.


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