1. What made you first fall in love with Carnival?
I first fell in love with Carnival when I went away to study. Soca music would start to play out of the blue, and it was as if I could smell St. Maarten; it made me feel at home. I visited the Dutch version of Carnival, but it was not the same; so every time I came back home, I would try to get into Carnival again.
2. As the new president of St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF), how do you physically handle the fact that you have to eat sleep and breathe Carnival?
Physically, I have a very strict regimen of vitamins that I take; vitamins like Black Label Whiskey, Dewar’s White Label and all of the other supplements that keep me going.
3. How does being SCDF president differ from being a board member?
There’s a lot more stress. The enormity of it is very distracting to your personal life as well as your professional life, especially if you have your business, which I do. You have to find balance and you have to find it quickly, or else something is going to fail. Some days I knock it out of the park; and other days the position beats me up, but I’m not a quitter, so I took the challenge head on.
4. What are three things you want to achieve during your time in office?
(1) I want to continue to professionalize the Foundation (SCDF) and move toward achieving a fully-staffed office. We’ve had great successes with the implementation of the post of Carnival Director, but we need that director to be supported by staff, i.e., an office manager, people who deal with sponsorship, people who deal with banking as well as full-time press people. We need to be more efficient and modern with what is happening with Carnival this year.
(2) We need to become more open to the international arena. I would really like for St. Maarten to be featured by Uber Soca Cruise, Soul Beach, South by South West in the States, Coachella, and the West Indian Day Parade. I would really like us to get branding and to be featured out there and I’m sure the Tourist Office would be willing to work with us on that.
(3) I would really like us to achieve that status of being one of the best music, food and cultural festivals in the World, or at least in the Caribbean. It would be great even to be ranked under Trinidad and Barbados as one of the best Carnivals.
5. The public has seen a lot of change this year, which one are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of some of the cultural elements we’re adding to Carnival this year. Culture Night is one of them as well as the opening and closing nights of the village; they will be very symbolic and I want everyone to come out to that. Then there’s the drink competition called “Village Cock Up”, which is sure to be exciting. My prouder moments aren’t grand ones, but just the fact that we’re doing Carnival great and it’s all going to get better moving forward.
6. You recently had the opportunity to visit Trinidad for Carnival. What was something you discovered there that you would want to bring to St. Maarten Carnival?
Due to other unforeseen circumstances, I actually wasn’t able to make it to Trinidad for Carnival this year. However, my vice president did go and brought back a lot of tips for how we can improve Parade Day and other logistics that we can use. I think it’s best not to do too much travelling in my first year; otherwise I wouldn’t get anything done here. I was able to visit French side Carnival and I saw some interesting tips about judging points we’ll be using. So expect one judging point with a lot of cameras and drones in the air, confetti and better choreography.
7. I know the One Love Reggae Concert is one of your passion projects; can you tell us a bit about the process?
This was a show that fell into our laps at the last minute during last year’s Carnival and we managed to pull it off successfully. We love the vibe we bring with it. We try to have a proper mixture of roots reggae, plus popular artists, a bit of dancehall and even an oldie-goldie who can take the crowd back, and this year we’ve succeeded again with much thanks to our sponsors.
The process of getting international artists and putting on a show is days and days of non-stop work and all-day manpower especially when they’re here. We have to pick them up at the airport, take them to do radio interviews and promo, then sound check, and get them ready for the concert. We stop for 10 minutes during the concert then it’s back to getting them to the airport for their flights. And this happens for multiple people over consecutive days, because it’s not just one night of shows. It’s a lot of work, but the reward is worth it. People loved the One Love Reggae Concert last year, and it will be the same reaction, if not better this year.
8. When you’re not the centre of the party, how do you unwind?
The easiest way to unwind in a way that changes my mood is to take a drive with my loved ones, my wife and my kids. If some friends want to join, we’ll stop along the way and have some drinks and just enjoy St. Maarten, the Paradise, and the sun going down. I’d say Grand Case is one of my favourite places on the island where I can chill out and let go of all the stress.