By ARNOLD A. AUGUSTE, Publisher/Senior Editor
A friend called me over the weekend to respond to my column in last week’s issue, especially to the comment that the folks at the Festival Management Committee (FMC) don’t know how to run the carnival and they don’t know what they don’t know. She agreed that it was scary and added, which I thought was more scary: “They don’t care”.
That reminded me of a comment from another acquaintance on Friday afternoon that she and her friends were really disappointed with the lack of organization and security once the bands left the CNE and the judging area and came out onto Lakeshore Boulevard. She said it was complete chaos.
Well, what did she and her friends expect?
Look, the folks at the FMC are only interested in finding ways to make money from the carnival which will allow them to fulfill their boast that they want to “wean themselves off of government funding”.
First, they lengthened the route for the bands to parade and be judged inside the CNE. Then they closed off the CNE gates so that everyone coming in has to pay as much as $20. each. However, once the bands leave the judging area, is there any reason for these FMC folks to care what happens on the Lakeshore if their only interest is making money?
Even the bandleaders are concerned. They cite the lack of security, for one thing. They are concerned that their members – especially the women – could be at risk because everything is so disorganized. One of the top bandleaders told me that he may consider not taking his band out on the Lakeshore in the future.
But that is exactly what the FMC wants. They are not making money on the Lakeshore. They will make it as uncomfortable as possible with the hope that everyone will go into the CNE and pay to see the parade. They have already made it more difficult to walk down to the Lakeshore. And if the bands decide to stay in the CNE, that will suit the FMC just fine.
What they might not consider – or even care about – is that the CNE can’t hold the estimated one million or so people who come out to see the parade so a large part of the usual crowd won’t get in to the CNE even if they were willing to pay the $20. Then, again, the FMC folks probably don’t even care about that.
But, they should care. As I told my carnival bandleader friend, it is the estimated one million or so people – especially the hundreds of thousands who come from out of the country, especially from the U.S. – who spend the estimated $400-million in the city when they come here to see the carnival parade. It is those people the city wants to continue to attract. It is those people the sponsors want to reach with their advertising messages. Without them, the money injected into the economy each year will dry up. Without all those people coming into the city for the carnival, the sponsors will have no audience for their advertisement and they will go away. Without those people dropping $400-million into the city, the governments will have no reason to continue to fund the parade.
Oh, you thought they were doing this because they love us, did you? And you also thought the bank and the other sponsors were involved just because they want to see us jump up and have a good time, right?
It’s all about the numbers – the number of people and, more importantly, the number of dollars being spent in the city over the carnival weekend. Take those away and the festival goes away too.
Why do you think that Councillor Joe Mihevc set up his own committee to run the festival when he felt he could no longer give the funds to the Caribbean Cultural Committee (CCC)? Was it because he loves mas and loves to see us jumping up?
Any government has the right to defund any organization it chooses to for whatever reason. And, as most of us know, the CCC didn’t make Mihevc’s decision very difficult. But it is highly unusual for a government to take the funds from one organization and give it to another to do the work the first was doing. It is more unusual for a member of a government to divert the funding from one organization to a committee he set up himself to do what the organization he defunded was doing.
It is all about the money. For those of you who remember, although this carnival was making a lot of money for this city, it was treated with disdain, especially by some potential sponsors and the mainstream media. (Remember that radio personality who was caught on an open mike referring to Caribana as “five hundred thousand nig—-” jumping up downtown?)
That was until research by a mainstream organization showed how much money it was really bringing in to the city.
The folks at the FMC are very short-sighted if they feel that once they can force people into the CNE they will make enough money to cover their costs without government funding. What they will do is kill this festival. The question to ask, then, is: Do they care?