Cayman’s plan for a single carnival parade has now reverted to two separate events.
However, CayMAS director Craig Frederick said both parades will come under one umbrella of the Cayman National Cultural Foundation and encompass the entire Cayman carnival experience.
He said Batabano and CayMAS will be held on separate days, despite a Culture Ministry statement last year affirming one parade in Grand Cayman on Mother’s Day weekend.
A statement from the ministry Thursday confirmed the new plan, saying the decision was taken to “move forward with a ‘carnival week’ approach allowing various groups to host separate road parades”.
Culture Minister Dwayne Seymour, in the statement, said stakeholders have sat through many hours of meetings with the purpose of discussing decisions about how Cayman Carnival could best model itself on regional partners that successfully host unified carnivals.
“This was not an easy task and required many proposals and counter-proposals with stakeholders and vested parties; for which I am truly grateful. I also, later in the process, requested the Cayman National Cultural Foundation to play a more active role in handling further negotiations with all groups. CNCF then formed a carnival steering committee (consisting of representatives from each camp) to ensure we were satisfied that an agreement with all parties could be reached. Today I am happy with those results,” he said.
Marcia Muttoo, managing director of the CNCF, said the foundation will give details of the parade routes and road closures to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and then share them with the public and businesses.
“There will also be a carnival calendar listing the events that each group will host, including those endorsed and funded by the ministry,” she added.
Donna Myrie-Stephen, who chairs the Cayman Carnival Batabano Committee, told the Cayman Compass, via email, that the committee still believes Cayman should have one carnival.
“For years now, we have respectfully participated in negotiations with the main parties involved, including the Government. The Batabano Board of Directors and the current Batabano Mas Bands stand firm in our position that there should not be two separate carnival parades on Grand Cayman,” she said.
“However, we are at least satisfied that the Government’s current plan eliminates holding two major carnival parades on the same day on Grand Cayman and on Cayman Brac.”
She said the committee members are satisfied with the original plan announced in May last year, with Junior Batabano being held on the first weekend of May, followed by the main Batabano parade the next weekend, leaving the Discovery Day weekend for Braccanal in Cayman Brac.
“From this plan, we have not wavered,” she said.
“We look forward to continuing to guard and grow Grand Cayman’s Batabano tradition, which was first started by the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman in 1983,” Myrie-Stephen added.
Frederick, in an interview with the Compass Tuesday, said the new plan will expand Cayman’s carnival experience, with Batabano kicking off the festival with its street parade on 9 May and CayMAS on Discovery Day, Monday, 18 May.
“Everything kicks off with the Batabano experience on the first weekend, which is the weekend of 8-10 May, and it goes right into the next weekend, leading up to the culmination of the carnival on Discovery Day weekend,” Frederick said.
He said Braccanal, the carnival on Cayman Brac, will remain on the Saturday of Discovery Day weekend, 16 May, but CayMAS will have its traditional carnival party that same evening.
He said this new plan will increase the “economic benefit” for Cayman, as carnival will expand from a weekend event to 10 days of activities.
“We have tourism coming in on both weekends, and the Brac gets their local [events] there. It gives us a more complete product in order for us to go out there and promote, because, you know, in order for us to be competitive, especially in this carnival market in the Caribbean, and to hit that top 15 carnival destinations and bring travel, we needed really to expand our carnival,” he said.
While Frederick is excited by the opportunities that the new plan presents, CayMAS has lost ICONZ, one of its headline bands.
ICONZ, in a statement late Friday, said it will be participating in Batabano Carnival on Saturday, 9 May, after it was informed the CayMAS carnival road parade will take place on the Discovery Day public holiday.
“ICONZ has participated in CayMAS since 2017, mainly due to the carnival taking place over a long weekend. However, with recent speculation CayMAS Carnival road parade would take place on a Monday, ICONZ made the decision to move to the Batabano weekend to ensure patrons enjoy an entire weekend of carnival-related events,” the statement said.
Brydie Phillips, marketing manager at Hurley’s Media which sponsors ICONZ, said the decision was not made lightly.
“We have been working to ensure CayMAS road parade remains on the Saturday of the Discovery Day long weekend and we are incredibly disappointed with the decision that the road parade for CayMAS would move to a Monday and that government officials were not able to see the value in holding it on the Saturday,” said Phillips.
The statement added that the proposed dates for CayMAS Carnival also conflict with a major event that Hurley’s Media organises, the Cayman Billfish Rundown, an international fishing tournament commencing Monday, 18 May.
Frederick, commenting on ICONZ’s decision, said it is the band’s “prerogative” to join the Batabano parade.
He said, in addition to Swanky International, CayMAS will have four to five bands.
“We do expect to see that they [ICONZ] will come back as one of the original bands of CayMAS. It’s going to be a challenge for us because it’s about changing the mentality or educating locals or overseas crews,” Frederick said.
He said the true structure of carnivals around the world is an “amazing build-up” to the road. He pointed to carnivals which included steel-pan competitions and jouvert (mud mas in Trinidad), all of which culminate with street parades.
Frederick added that the plan is to start CayMAS carnival at 11:30am on Discovery Day so the parade will end at a decent hour for masqueraders to have ample time to rest ahead of the following workday.
As for Batabano, Myrie-Stephen said preparations have been well under way since last year, with several Batabano mas bands launching their costume sales months ago.