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Tobago Heritage Festival opens to sold out crowd

By MARISSA WILLIAMS Tobago Bureau Sunday, July 13 2008

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The 21st Annual Tobago Heritage Festival opened with a bit of mayhem on Friday night when scores of ticket-holding patrons were denied entry into the Dwight Yorke Stadium car park after fire officers announced that the venue had reached its capacity.

The show kicked off shortly after 8 pm and by 9 pm a number of angry patrons were seen leaving the venue as gate officials informed them that the venue could not hold any more persons.

However, Newsday later learnt that there was a mix up in communication as fire officials had actually told the gate staff to stop the sale of tickets since there was no more sitting room and to allow entry only to persons already holding tickets who would be allowed to stand. The problem was eventually rectified and, for the first time in years, the Opening Gala saw a healthy crowd of approximately 3,500 persons. That aside, the TSTT sponsored Opening Night Gala production has been described as being the deepest in terms of content in years.

The production titled “One Hand Cyar Clap” which was written and directed by a young local cultural enthusiast, Olmal Gordon-Holder, was based around the main character “Tovacca” (Tobago), who was on her death bed and seeking suitable candidates in whose hands to leave her legacy.

However, the task proved difficult as her charges had become quite absorbed with their own affairs.

Following her death her spirit, through Ma Izora Mearle (Naomi Abiola), passed on the legacy to a timid Lulu (Samantha George) who represented the “young generation” which had become consumed by greed, materialism and the mindless nature of their responsibilities. In a true reflection of the theme “One Hand Cyar Clap”, family, friends and neighbours vowed to put aside their differences and agendas to assist young Lulu with the daunting responsibility with which she was bestowed.

“Let’s face it. Whether we want to or not, we the young people are the ones who will have to carry on the legacy. We are responsible for our own futures but in the wider picture, we are responsible for the development of this country and by extension, the world. We have to accept this responsibility and understand that everyone of us needs to chip in to make it possible,” Gordon-Holder told Newsday yesterday.

The production, which involved a relatively young cast, seamlessly took the captive audience into a number of dance and drum pieces and also included excerpts from several village productions.

The 21st Annual Tobago Heritage Festival continued last night at the Montgomery Recreational grounds with the Bethel Village “Talking Drums” presentation and will return to the Dwight Yorke Stadium car park at 3 pm today for the Folk Fiesta.

In keeping with the “One Hand Cyar Clap” theme, this year will also see collaborative productions between villages such as “It Takes a Village To Raise A Child” by the Cannan/Bon Accord villages and “From Captain To Cook” by the Northside combined villages of Castara, Palatuvier, Bloody Bay and Lans Fourmi.

A few favourites will also be returning this year including the Whim Village “Wake and Bongo” production which was taken off the calendar several years ago.

As usual, enthusiasts can look forward to popular productions like the Old Time Moriah Wedding, Pembroke Salaka Feast, Folk Fiesta, Charlotteville Natural Treasures Day and Mason Hall Games We Used To Play. Newer productions such as the Heritage Ball and Youth Explosion are fast gaining popularity as well.

However, while the event is expected to attract a lot of visitors from within the Caribbean region, the main focus has been placed on domestic tourism and the majority of visitors are expected to hail from Trinidad where the Festival was also launched.

President of the Tobago Hotel Association, Carol Ann Birchwood-James, yesterday told Newsday that the association has embarked upon a massive campaign locally to lure Trinidadians to the island during the period and, so far, it seems to have been successful.

Birchwood-James said that the occupancy rate at the hotels was currently low, as was the same with other Caribbean destinations, however, Tobago was lucky since it has the Trinidad market to fall back on.

The cost of this year’s festival falls in the vicinity of TT$6 million with the THA remaining the major sponsor and pumping over TT $5 million into the event while the rest is expected to come from sponsorship. The two-week event will run until July 31.

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