Nelson’s Dockyard ‘Champagne Party’ to return this festive season

The event traditionally attracts hundreds of revellers to the historic dockyard (Photo by Gemma Handy)
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By Orville Williams

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The annual ‘Champagne Party’ held in Nelson’s Dockyard on Christmas Day is set to return to the twin island’s festive season calendar this year, after being cancelled for the first time last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The event, which usually draws hundreds of patrons to the iconic site, has become a staple for the local community and the island on a whole, and has even gotten international acclaim, being named one of the five best Christmas events in the world by the New York Times.

Last year’s cancellation was a big blow for organisers and patrons alike, so the public will no doubt be elated with the confirmation coming from Andy Liburd, spokesperson for the National Parks Authority.

Liburd explained to Observer that one of the few changes to this year’s event is that the long-time organiser has pulled out, with an able member of the community stepping up in his place.

“We’re pleased to announce that [the event] will be done in partnership with a member of the community, Guerin Hunte, who has been associated with the event for the last couple of years, giving support to the main sponsor – the Hourglass Foundation – run by Hans Smit.

“I believe it would have been a bit of a difficulty over the past couple of years for Hans to continue running it, so Guerin has filled the breach [and] we were able to develop a very good partnership with him to have the event run this year,” Liburd explained.

“The thing is, we could not go without it being done, because it is a major tradition in the dockyard and for Antigua and Barbuda as well.”

The event was cancelled last year due to the ongoing pandemic, with the absence of vaccines and a high Covid-19 infection rate making it effectively impossible for its safe execution.

Though the situation is much better this time around, Liburd assured that they will not be taking things for granted, with strict protocols set to be imposed.

“We have a very good standard and a very good approach in terms of ensuring that persons adhere to all of the approved protocols in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“So far as indoor dining is concerned, however, we’re making sure that persons who come into the restaurant [and] the hotel are all vaccinated. [In terms of] the public spaces of the dockyard, those protocols are standard – mask-wearing, temperature checks – and will remain in place.

“We’ll [also] be keeping tabs on the numbers just to ensure that we don’t have an overcrowded space,” he added.

This year’s event will feature live music with bands and DJ music, with DJ Who, the High Tempo Band and the Revel Band on the line-up.

The usual Christmas feast will also be a feature, as an alternative to the traditional home-cooked Christmas meal, in buffet-style at the Copper and Lumber Store Historic Inn.

The activities will start around midday this year and run into the evening.

The event has been organised by the Hourglass Foundation for more than 30 years, with the aim of providing various charities with financial assistance.

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