TORTOLA —–British Virgin Islands Festival and Fairs Committee officials are gearing up for activities for the 68th August Festival which kicks off Friday, July 22 with a Port Purcell warm-up bum at the Village Grounds of the festival.
This event, a Calypso review on July 23 and the crowning of Miss BVI on July 24, will be among three “unofficial” activities leading up to the opening of the Bernard Nibbs Festivelle and Gospel Fest on Wednesday July 27, announced at a press conference on Monday at the Directorate of Youth and Sports.
Other highlights will be a July 29 food fair with 19 vendors at Cyril B. Romney Tortola Pier Park; a Soca Monarch contest. A march for freedom from Government House to the Sunday Morning Well on July 31. The August Festival parade on August 1 and horse racing on August 2 plus an international reggae night with Steel Pulse. Activities that will run until August 5 will also take place in East End and Carrot Bay.
Recently appointed committee chairman Dirk Walters said they strive for excellence and their aim is to bring the BVI Festival to the level where it is “revered and respected” on the world stage, in terms of celebrating “unique identity” and the emancipation of the BVI as a territory.
“It’s been a long road and we would have liked to be further ahead than we are right now, but unfortunately things are happening and it’s obvious to see the things that have happened over the past few months,” said- he declared. “Nevertheless, we intend to continue and make this a great event for one and all. I want to reiterate that this is a community event. This is not a government event. This is not a private event, but a community event and we would love everyone’s participation and contributions, if we all continue to work together we can make it great.
Vice President Birch Lettsome said the Festival is an event that touches everyone in the community. “The festival is a very important part of our economy,” he said. “I am happy that we are reunited as a community.”
Committee member Luce Hodge-Smith said there will be no Miss BVI beauty pageant this year but a coronation instead and details will be forthcoming. However, there will be a Prince and Princess Show and Hodge-Smith said there was an “uphill struggle” to get that show. The Mr. and Miss Jr. BVI will be crowned during this July 31 program.
“To be politically correct, there was the decision to have all the pageants as crowning glory, but there was a decision made to have the Prince and Princess Show,” she said. “The other thing was with the Miss BVI Pageant – not that we didn’t have competitors – but the timing and to maintain the standard of Miss BVI the decision was made to have a crowning whether it was the first or second runner-up since last year.”
Hodge-Smith, a former Miss BVI who noted the pageant is close to her heart, said it was not the particular route they wanted to take.
Walters said it’s not just about budget constraints, but absolute male/female power to get things done, in a limited time frame. “To be blunt and blunt, only getting the green light on June 8 to hold the festival created a lot of these constraints, to be honest,” he said. “We have sat down for many months with strategic planning and analysis, but our biggest grant comes from the central government. With all these constraints, over time, these things happened and it was time to execute all these plans – and it’s not just on our side.
Walters said he received $500,000, but that figure covers the Virgin Gorda Easter Festival, Heritage Month and all August festival activities.
“You don’t suffer from overspending,” said entertainment manager Sturt Donovan, “You suffer from underfunding.”
Lettsome said he’s had sponsorships, but a minimum of $1.5-2 million would be an ideal budget. He said they plan to spend just under $1 million, including the grant, sponsorship and event revenue.
“We will try to deliver the best festival possible, despite the constraints,” Walters said.
July 22 Warm up tramp, Purcell in the Festival Village
July 23 Calypso Destra Review
July 24 Coronation of Miss BVI
July 27 Opening Night/Gospel Fest
July 28 torchlight procession
July 29 Cyril B Romney Food Fair Tortola Pier Park
July 30th Soca Monarch Contest
31 July Freedom March from Government House to Sunday Morning Well Ceremony
August 1 Rise and Shine Tramp / August Festival Parade Government House
August 2 Horse racing/International reggae evening with Steel Pulse
August 3 Jourve’t from Long Look to Brandywine Bay / Beah Picnic
August 5 Carrot Bay Cultural Festival/Water Sports