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A fete frenzy

Some things don’t change. The fete season leading up to Carnival 2013 is as frenzied as ever, with parties every weekend.

But some fete promoters in Trinidad and Tobago are complaining that things are different now, with the economy taking a toll on Carnival partying.

There may be more and more fetes every year, but coupled with a stagnant economy, this means fewer and fewer patrons, and reduced revenues.

Roy Maharaj of TriStar Promotions told the Business Express in an interview that it was difficult locally for many party-goers in terms of finance.

“Average people who support mass market fetes have no salary and can hardly buy bread to eat,” he said.

He said the working class were choosing to go to one or two events for the season to keep costs down.

“That is what it reach to in terms of entertainment in this country,” he added.

Carnival this year will be held on February 11 and 12, a shorter season compared to February 20 and 21 last year and March 7 and 8 in 2011.

Asked if the reduced season this year was having a negative effect on fetes, Maharaj said the problem was more about economics.

He provided the example of the Christmas season, noting that it was not shortened but vendors and businessmen were complaining about low sales.

“People have no money. One set of people enjoying the inheritance and others suffering,” he commented.

He added: “Not only the shortness of Carnival, in previous years we had short Carnivals before and everybody could make money still. But now is worse, because there is too much interference with too many groups in the country.”

Maharaj claimed that the entertainment industry was being “muzzled” by politicians and “a lot of things going haywire”.

He said both promoters and artistes were being affected by this interference.

“What killing the Carnival? Carnival too short is one aspect, (but is really) too much politics,” he insisted.

Cliff Harris, manager of Village Promotions, which puts on the Fire Fete and other events, said last week he has noticed a trend of decreasing patron turn-out for about two years, and the industry has been “dwindling”.

He said in previous years people did not have many choices regarding fetes but there were more events now.

“On a Saturday night or Friday there is a lot of events all over. They have choices now,” he added.

He noted that every year the cost of putting on an event, including security, sound, infrastructure and venue rental, was increasing “but then your gate receipts and your tickets remain the same price” and this was negatively affecting the business.

At its first event, Fire Fete held on January 12, it did not get the turn-out as expected but he did not know if this trend will change as the season progressed.

Harris, like Maharaj, also cited the bad state of the economy for reduced patronage.

“These days now they don’t have the disposal income,” he added.

He continued: “(Fetes now) cost a lot more (but you) not getting the amount of people would have gotten in the past (at the) same price as five years ago.”

Harris said because of this trend, promoters have to cut down on costs.

Before they would have four bands at their events but they have had to cut it down to two or one.

At Fire Fete there was one band and a number of artistes.

He noted, however: “With all that, the cost is still high.”

Maharaj also cited another factor which he believes has “stifled” the mass market event: the behaviour of some patrons at mass market events and the resurgence of the all-inclusive fetes.

He explained that incidents such as fighting at mass events, which occurred after the fete ended, gave the particular event a bad name.

He noted that the all-inclusive fete “has risen from the dead” in recent years and people seeking fetes with “proper behaviour” were patronising them, which was in turn killing the mass market events.

“Spend $600 (on an all inclusive) and that is Carnival,” he commented wryly. (Trinidad Express)

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