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HomeNewsArchivesCarnival Officials, Police Stress Safety for 2010 Bacchanal

Carnival Officials, Police Stress Safety for 2010 Bacchanal

Carnival Committee Executive Director Caswil Callender (left) talks with District Police Chief Rodney Querrard Sr. after Wednesday's press conference.Gathering on St. Thomas Wednesday for their annual press conference, Carnival Committee officials and some of the district’s top police brass stressed the importance of staying safe during this year’s festival activities, themed "Bacchanal Again for 2010."
The community has to work together to make sure Carnival doesn’t see another shut-down like it did last year, when police had to break J’ouvert up early after fights erupted downtown. Residents are being urged to report any disputes or weapons they see — whether it be a bottle or a gun — to the nearest officer, said District Police Chief Rodney Querrard Sr.
There will also be some more restrictions this year, and VIPD officers will be out in full force to make sure nothing goes wrong, he explained. Trench coats, bandanas and hoodies, for example, are not allowed during J’ouvert and will be confiscated if worn. Further, J’ouvert will begin at 6 a.m. on April 29, and all bands must be lined up and ready to go no later than 5:30 a.m., Querrard said.
"If you come late, you won’t be allowed to participate," he added.
Vendors setting up booths during Carnival are not allowed to sell anything resembling a weapon, including toy guns and knives, Querrard said. Police aren’t trying to rain on anyone’s parade, but making sure the community stays safe is the officers’ first priority, he added.
Querrard, along with deputy chief Dwayne DeGraff, said cars that are double- or triple-parked will also be towed, and will most likely be stored at VIPD’s new impound in Sub Base. Towing fees shouldn’t be more than $100 for small to mid-size cars, but the department will be keeping residents posted on what sort of fees and wrecker services they will be using.
Along with safety issues, Carnival Committee members said Tuesday that while they hope this year’s activities will be better than ever, there are a few hiccups — such as a lack of funding — that have put a damper on their efforts.
"I know people will probably think that the activities are the same as before, but we have to work with what we have," said committee chairman Kenneth Blake. The committee has been looking to bring in some major acts — such as Krosfyah, Denise Belfon and Traffic — for the Soca Explosion on April 23, but still has to contend with things like immigration fees, he said, adding that travel between the islands got more complicated after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
According to their 2009 financials, which were provided during the press conference, gate receipts were the highest for the Queen Show, Latin/Calypso Night and the Calypso Revue, which officials attributed to their efforts in bringing in a diverse group of performers to entertain the community’s various cultural groups.
"We know different communities like different things," Blake said.
But continuing to do that requires more money, he explained, adding that the committee is still working, for example, on bringing in bands from Santo Domingo and Puerto Rico for Latin/Calypso night.
Socio-economic changes have also begun to disrupt the Carnival activities, the committee’s executive director Caswil Callender said Wednesday. Every year, there are fewer males signing up for the Prince and Princess show, he said, recalling a conversation he had with one local six-year-old, who said participating in the pageant was "for punks."
Callender lamented that being a part of the gang scene is becoming more attractive than the more traditional community events.
On the other hand, the territory’s moniker as the "pageant capital of the world" is attracting what Callender described as a new wave of pageant consultants who work with parents to prepare their children for the pageants, only to overcharge them and ruin their chances of competing.
"The more prominent the pageant, the higher the cost," Callender said. "And most parents simply can’t afford it, so that has resulted in a smaller number of contestants."
Finally, Callender said that even though most of the committee’s activities are free to the public, attendance suffered last year because several other community events were taking place at the same time. Cooperation, he stressed, is paramount during Carnival, and community members must work together to preserve and maintain the cultural celebration.
If the Reichhold Center for the Arts schedules a production on the same night as one of the activities, for example, it would be difficult to draw in a crowd, he said.
"The main thrust of the celebration is culture, and we must do what we can to maintain that," Callender said.
And for the most part, the community gets that, officials added, saying that about 162 Carnival theme submissions were received this year. Meanwhile, Tourism representatives added that the department has invested in this year’s celebrations with a range of magazine advertisements and a travel promotion that should boost the number of bodies at activities.
To enter for a chance to win the promotion — which includes a free trip to St. Thomas for Carnival — visit http://www.caribbeantravelmag.com/.
Carnival activities kick off at 5 p.m. on April 11, with the Prince and Princess Selection Show at Lionel Roberts Stadium and finally wrap-up on May 1 with the Adult’s Parade, which starts at 10 a.m. The theme for the Carnival Village this year will be "Gerry’s Gypsy Caravan," in honor of Gerard Nicholson, while the Cultural and Food Fair — dubbed "Inger’s Market Jamboree" — will honor J. Ingerborg Marrero.
Meanwhile, the committee is looking for judges and hospitality volunteers. Residents interested in participating can call the committee’s office at 776-3112.

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