Despite the government’s admission that it will not expend money to fund the 2018 Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival, carnival band owners say they simply want government to provide police and cleanup for the Road Fever portion of the weekend of festivities.
Part owner of Bahamas Masqueraders Anton Dean said carnival band owners are waiting for government’s confirmation that it will at least support Road Fever by officially stating that it will provide these services. Dean said that is all the carnival bands are asking for.
In 2015, the inaugural year of Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival, the band owners were provided seed money by government to start their bands and build costumes for their customers for the Road Fever parade. However, after government saw cost overruns from the concert portion of the event of more than $2 million, Bahamians began to question the feasibility and viability of the five-day, two-island event. In the second year the government once again overshot its budget. Last year’s financials have yet to be released.
Bahamas Carnival Cruise owner Stephan Rolle said the concert series has to be separated from Road Fever, “because carnival is really the road march”.
He added that private businesses like his never received seed money and have been promoting Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival in a vacuum for three years.
Bands, though, have not received government support since the first year of carnival and therefore have essentially privatized the Road Fever portion of the carnival.
Rolle’s cruise to carnival is predicated on the Road Fever portion of the carnival. Last year his company brought more than 140 carnival enthusiasts to The Bahamas to participate, and the bookings for 2018 have already begun.
Rolle, however, echoed the sentiments of Dean and other carnival band owners: they simply want government to endorse the carnival and announce the date officially.
Dean said the carnival band owners and the private sector can come together and take care of the rest.
“If we can get the ball rolling, we can really do some things on our own from a business standpoint,” he said.
Government is still mulling over the complete privatization of Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival, and with only four months before the Road Fever event, bands are feeling the pressure, but plan to launch their costumes this month.
Darren Bastian, of the Enigma carnival band, said he has always advocated for carnival to be privatized and run by young entrepreneurs.
He added that carnival band owners and entrepreneurs should have been given the chance to put their own “special fingerprint” on Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival and change the perception of the carnival for Bahamians.
Bastian suggested that in terms of marketing, government should not wholesale divest itself of the carnival weekend, but assist in bringing tourists in to experience the carnival through its advertising channels, as was the mandate of the Bahamas National Festival Commission from its inception.