By Carlena Knight
After two long years, many residents and visitors to Antigua and Barbuda will be delighted with the suggestion that Carnival celebrations could be back on the calendar this year.
The pronouncement was made by Prime Minister Gaston Browne during the budget presentation yesterday.
“As the epidemiological position improves and public health conditions allow for a return to large gatherings, one of the primary objectives of this ministry will be to facilitate the return of Carnival which will be culturally infused with dynamism,” Browne said.
Foreign Affairs Minister, EP Chet Greene, also hinted at a possible staging of the ‘greatest summer festival’ after the PM’s presentation on Thursday, adding that the government is engaging with stakeholders to figure out the best way to host Carnival.
There was no warning that the 2019 edition of the historic festivities would be the last for such a long time, before the Covid-19 pandemic forced countries into lockdowns and prohibited large gatherings.
And the revellers who anticipate the festivities year-round are not the only ones who will be looking forward to this summer with optimism.
It is important to note, though, that despite both pronouncements, there has been no official confirmation that this year’s celebrations are definitely on.
Nevertheless, Observer spoke with a few event promoters and revellers to get some early reaction to the PM’s remarks.
Former Chairman of Carnival, Neil Cochrane, said that – while the celebrations may not be possible in the traditional format – it should go ahead to provide some relief to local promoters.
“You look at the trend with most countries worldwide; they are moving on. You have to manage the situation and so at the end of the day, we have a responsibility as individuals to take care of ourselves and to follow the protocols.
“Perhaps, we may not have Carnival in its entirety. Some aspects of it may not be authorised but I believe we have to look at the impact it has had in the entertainment sector where that’s their livelihood and we have to look at how the whole pandemic has affected promoters.
“It is a serious, serious blow,” Cochrane said.
Cochrane added that the many lessons learned throughout the course of the pandemic should give the authorities the confidence to host Carnival in a safe manner.
“I think we are at a position now where we have full understanding with what we are dealing with, how to deal with the situation, and so with that knowledge because, as they say knowledge is power, we can now put on the festival and manage it accordingly.
“I always believed that we have to live. We can’t just sit down and wait on things to happen, we have to make it happen,” he stated.
Popular disc jockey and fete promoter Kwesi ‘DJ Crutches’ Jarvis also welcomed the idea as it “would help to boost the economy and even improve the financial situation for many promoters and other Carnival beneficiaries”.
Meanwhile, two regular mas players had opposing views on the prospect of hitting the road this summer.
“I know we all want fun and our regular life back. But I think we should hold off for one more year,” one told Observer.
Another described it as “amazing news”.
“I have been waiting for this for two years now. Best news so far for 2022,” she added.