Caymanians head to Central America each year
A contingent from the Cayman Islands that heads off to Honduras every year for the annual Carnival there has won the competition for best band consecutively.
The trips, which started out of a little love for carnivals, a little business and some twists of fate, began in 1999. Organizer of the “Cayman Group” – as they are known – Girsella Ebanks, explained how things got started and grew exponentially over time.
“It started out with us wanting to market our services at MoneyGramm to our Honduran customers. I was familiar with carnivals around the world, including Trinidad, Honduras, Cayman and others. It seemed like a good idea to get their assistance in putting a band together that would promote MoneyGramm, as we were starting a band that would take part in the event in Honduras,” Mrs. Ebanks said.
She said even though they are there promoting MoneyGramm, what has happened is the Honduran people have begun to look at it as the Cayman group. As a result, the group from Cayman has also formed a relationship with the Honduran Department of Tourism.
Now the band that started in 1999 and became a serious endeavour in 2002 has travelled to Honduras every year, with exception of 2009. They have won first place in the Honduran Carnival six times and second place three times.
Usually about 60 people make up the band. These are comprised of those who travel from the Cayman Islands and others who join the group in Honduras.
“What makes our group special each time is that we stand out because we are so different. Our band of pirates and wenches dances along the parade route, attracting most of the crowd along with us, which is we often have to go last,” Mrs. Ebanks said.
She said participation in the Honduran Carnival is something that is usually enjoyed by the richer class in the country and because of the fact that the Cayman Group, sponsored by MoneyGramm inculcates so many of the locals into their band, this was another reason so many people loved the Cayman Group.
MoneyGramm usually donates roughly $20,000 to the group each year, along with promotional materials, accommodation and food. The participants have to pay their own airfare.
Co-organiser of the Cayman group Graham Rankin explained some of the criteria involved with selecting individuals to join the group.
“Everyone has to be over 18 and there is no alcohol. We are very selective about who can join, as we like to run a tight ship.”
Both he and Mrs. Ebanks said Caymanian Reba Dilbert has helped with costume designs free of charge in addition to others who assist the group in preparing for the Carnival.
The Group has made such an impact in the Honduran festival that just this year, Mr. Rankin, who oversees the fireworks to launch the National Pirate’s Week Festival in Cayman, was asked to do the fireworks to launch the Honduran Carnival.
“It was great. I have been doing fireworks and blowing stuff up for years,” he joked, adding that he felt a special kindred with the people of Honduras and was grateful for an opportunity to be an ambassador for Cayman throughout his time being involved with the Cayman Group.