Carnival 2024 wraps up challenging year

Carnival 2024 wraps  up challenging year

~ Carnival 2025 scheduled from April 21 to May 5 ~

PHILIPSBURG--After a year filled with unprecedented challenges, St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) has closed the 53rd edition of Carnival.

Despite facing various obstacles, the SCDF expressed gratitude for being able to reach the finish line, with SCDF President Edwardo Radjouki saying in a press release on Sunday, “This can never happen again, this is not who we are.”

Reflecting on a Carnival that looked and felt different from previous years, Radjouki referred to the division of “Carnival people” by one individual to please that individual’s personal feelings. He said Carnival on St. Maarten means togetherness of people, of culture, in peace and unity, celebrated in one iconic location. This, he continued, is something that has been protected, developed and nurtured for five decades.

“Carnival Bacchanal is one thing, but wilfully trying to destroy your national festival by undermining the SCDF and dividing our people is something else altogether. This is not who we are in Carnival. We just cannot let this happen again,” he said.

Radjouki said Carnival 2024 will go down in history as the first time the foundation was unsure whether it could successfully pull off the festival. The foundation faced financial difficulties leading up to Carnival, but with the timely intervention of former Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion, the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau and support from member of parliament (MP) Cloyd Marlin, SCDF was able to overcome some of its operational challenges.

Radjouki highlighted Irion’s and Marlin’s efforts in helping to save Carnival in the face of unforeseen circumstances.

According to the release, the emergency financial assistance was necessary after former Minister of Justice Anna Richardson, for the first time ever, granted permits for events competing with Carnival.

“Richardson did this without consulting SCDF to understand the consequences of that action. It didn’t take long for those consequences to manifest. Richardson’s move not only split people, it triggered a cascade of Carnival cancellations and sponsor reductions which rendered all budgetary plans of the SCDF moot before Carnival 2024 even opened,” according to the release. According to Radjouki, this resulted in a revenue loss that was impossible to recover from.

“We got to the half-way point and then everything began to get really tight. We could not meet obligations and all the plans we had to take care of standing bills were useless. We adjusted every single day. The board of the SCDF is mentally and physically drained. But, thankfully, we finally found someone in government who listened and understood and did something. We are very grateful to Minister Irion and his team who performed miracles,” Radjouki said.

SCDF will now begin preparations for Carnival 2025, scheduled to run from April 21 to May 5. Easter falls very late on the calendar in 2025; hence the late start to Carnival as well.

Despite the setbacks of Carnival 2024, Radjouki said he remains optimistic about the future of the festival, particularly in terms of showcasing more local content and cultural events.

He reflected on Carnival 2024, despite the challenges, with pride in witnessing his dream of more local content taking root in the festival. He said the foundation welcomes having international events as part of Carnival because that too has become part of the product. However, he said the cultural sections of the parades, the Caribbean pageant that highlights Caribbean culture, more inclusion of local bands in shows and the continued re-birth of youth events in Carnival are all good signs for the future of Carnival.

“We shouldn’t look past what is happening in this regard either. Yes, there are areas we will look at and fix what needs to be fixed. But we like the re-focused efforts on culture. Together with our schools and the Culture Department we will work on making sure that growth continues,” he said.

In terms of preventing a repeat of 2024, Radjouki said, “The past two years since coming out of the pandemic have been hell for us, and most of it brought on by outside forces. But we believe with genuine cooperation between stakeholders, including the government, the full potential of Carnival can be unleashed. We have a plan to avoid a repeat of 2024. Now all we need is collaboration and communication. We just want to be heard finally.”

Radjouki thanked all corporate sponsors that stuck with Carnival despite its challenges, Carnival village booth holders who were unique as ever, the promoters who still staged their shows despite immense risk, the general public for coming out to support the local events, troupe leaders for including more culture in their troupes, the bands and deejays for making it to the road with very limited funding, contractors for accepting what the SCDF could provide with limited financial resources, and the SCDF volunteers and board members for digging deep and being resilient in the face of extreme obstacles.

The Daily Herald

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