EDITORIAL – Batabano: Don’t stop the carnival(s)

We’d tell readers to watch out – but there’s no way to miss it. On Saturday afternoon, thousands of colorfully clad revelers will descend upon the streets of Grand Cayman for the biggest parade in the country.

Yes, we are, of course, talking about Batabano, which is marking its 34th year as the Cayman Islands’ national carnival celebration.

With the introductory events and preparatory fetes finished, Saturday morning’s road parade will feature a menagerie of floats, a cornucopia of costumes and an irresistible amount of dancing – all in time to the booming beat of Soca music.

Last weekend’s Junior Batabano parade was a vibrant occasion unto itself (as our readers could tell by the front-page photo and inside photo gallery that appeared in Monday’s Compass, as well as the video we produced and posted online). However, the youth event offers a mere inkling of the massive merriment that will take place in the adult parade Saturday.

But all this fun does contain certain risks. Before the celebrations (and the carousing) begin, let us offer some preemptive words of advice.

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First, it is May, and this is the Caribbean. Barring a thunderstorm or mercifully dense cloud cover, it is going to be extremely sunny – and extremely hot. (And we’re talking about the weather, not the ambience of the event.) With many of the costumes, ahem, offering little in the way of protection from the sun, please take the appropriate precautions and invest in a bottle of high-SPF sunscreen.

Additionally, the Batabano parade route – extending from Public Beach down West Bay Road into downtown George Town – constitutes a distance of more than 4 miles, again in the tropical heat. We know that many of the parade participants, and observers, will have plenty of beverages on hand, but rum and beer are not exactly the best “hydrators.” In other words, make sure to drink plenty of water.

As for Grand Cayman residents who don’t feel like immersing themselves in Batabano this year, the sagest advice is to steer clear of the area on Saturday. After all, you can try to ignore the carnival, but you can’t stop it.

In other festival-related news, we welcome the recent announcement that the annual Pirates Week Festival in November will be shortened to a period of five days in Grand Cayman (and three days apiece on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman).

In past years, we have been critical – not of Pirates Week itself, per se – but of its expansion, dilution and sprawl. Containing and compressing the festival to a single long weekend, instead of nearly two weeks, may result in an explosion of distilled enthusiasm for the event. (Note that Carnival celebrations in Rio de Janeiro occupy four days; Carnival in Trinidad two days; and the main Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans over a long weekend.)

We also support the decision to condense the five individual Heritage Day events (one for each district), into a single all-day event in George Town. We think people will enjoy being able to compare fritters from East End with stew turtle from Bodden Town, and to see which district offers the finest handmade crafts … without engaging in long drives across the island.

The decision to consolidate also allows Pirates Week organizers to avoid a potentially controversial judgment call – whether or not to mirror our lawmakers and multiply the five Heritage Days into 19 separate events, one for each “mini” voting district.

We’re joking (mostly). But picking up on this thread, the Pirates Week organizers, by combining the five district events into one, moved in the direction our Progressives government should have – but didn’t – when they fundamentally altered Cayman’s democratic system, in the name of “one man, one vote.”

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