The pirates were fiercer, the floats brighter, the district days more colourful, the smiles wider, the clouds fewer and the crowds bigger.
In fact, this year’s Pirates Week Festival has been the biggest and best to date, says Executive Director of Pirates Week Dave Martins.
‘We’ve had the biggest crowds ever this year and this has probably a good deal to do with the weather,’ he said.
Mr. Martins said the estimations so far are that there was an attendance of roughly 40,000 at the celebrations this year. Usually the number ranges between 35,000 and 36,000, so the numbers are up roughly 12 per cent.
‘Weather is such a big factor in this,’ he said.
However, he commented that it is indicative of the popularity of the festival that during heavy rain on the first Saturday (during the pre-landing) there was a huge turnout and at Friday’s District Day in North Side there was also a great turnout.
For the past two years of the festival the rain has really hampered proceedings, but this year the much more favourable weather allowed for a clear run of the festival to go on as originally scheduled.
The Ministry of Tourism agreed to move the dates of this year’s festival up the calendar a week and a half to two weeks in order to try to safeguard it from the nasty weather of previous years. This year festivities in Grand Cayman took place from 9 to 19 November, with events still to take place in Cayman Brac this coming Friday and Saturday.
‘It was obvious that we couldn’t stay at the dates we were at,’ Mr. Martins stated. He explained that, as primarily an outdoor festival, consideration had to be given to the food vendors, costumes, kids’ fun day, floats that take weeks to build, all which were at the mercy of the elements.
In fact, next year’s similar dates of 8 to 18 November, have already been announced.
Mr. Martins admitted that ideally the festivities should be moved even a little later into the calendar year, but then the festivities would potentially clash with American Thanksgiving and the Cayman Jazz Fest.
An Economic Impact Study done on the festival in 2002 by the University of the West Indies showed that it generates a return of roughly $700,000 a year for the economy and that it shows a ratio of 1.6 to 1 in benefit to cost.
Although the operation of the administration of Pirates Week is government funded, the events side is nearly all paid for through donations and sponsorship.
Mr. Martins noted that in expanding the festival in the years ahead, this funding aspect is something that will need to be taken into consideration by the Tourism Attractions Board and the Ministry of Tourism.
The presentation cost of the first weekend is now approximately $100,000 and it is offered free to the public.
Outside of the music presentations, 1,500 volunteers drive most of the 32 events in the festival.
Pirates Week has benefited in recent years from the increase in youth population and general population, increase of attention from overseas media and it has also been propelled by the extensive attention to ‘things Caymanian’ generated during the Quincentennial Year celebrations, said Mr. Martins.
‘It’s a very complicated festival to run,’ he commented, and with just two in the Pirates Week office and a string of volunteers there is an element of great satisfaction to see it come together so well, he said.
The new elements of the festival worked very well this year and will most likely be incorporated into next year’s festivities, he said.
These include the Pirate Costume competition, which resulted in 30 entrants taking part in the fun.
The pre-landing entertainment this year included plunging parachute jumps from Red Bull ‘Air-Force’ which got the crowd pumping before the landing pageant. Mr. Martins noted that Red Bull was very excited about the event and are ready to come back next year.
Another changed feature of this year’s festivities was the kick off party, which took place at a new venue, The Wharf, this year, and was a resounding success.
Roll on November 2007!