Our Crop Over, oh sweet for days!
People dressed in costumes, food and drinks being consumed, young people “wukking up”, old people jumping up, woman with child in hand, chipping behind a costume band, big trucks keep coming down, kicking off every song . . . all colour, creed and class moving together, making mas’. Vendors doing good trade, sno-cone man got it made, people lining the street, feeling the burning heat, water in high demand but people enjoying a steel band.
Something happened in Barbados for just under the last three months and it was a grand occasion.
The annual Crop Over season climaxed on Monday with the Kadooment Day street parade that showcased colourful bands, pulsating music and excited revellers. Long before that climax, though, the festival had offered an assortment of attractions, ranging from Party Monarch, Sweet Soca, Pic-O-De-Crop and Junior Monarch musical contests to steel pan shows and Read-In sessions for those specifically with literary tastes. The majority of the big musical events had been fed by the important tents pitched at locations across the island.
In addition to those events staged under the auspices of the National Cultural Foundation, there were a number of shows and fetes produced by independent entrepreneurs that attracted massive crowds and provided opportunities for several local musicians.
Of course, in addition to several calypsonians who would have performed during the festival, numerous instrumentalists, writers, arrangers, producers, among other players in the industry, would have had the opportunity to showcase their talents and receive monetary reward for so doing.
Businesses across the island –– small and large –– would also have benefited from the sale of foodstuff, liquor and beverages, as well as material to make costumes, erect stalls, and a host of other endeavours related to the festival.
Hotels, guest houses, restaurants, stores, shops, taxi and tour operators, and others would have benefited from the influx of visitors to the island specifically for Crop Over. In a depressed economic environment where many are loath to spend, the period between June and August is one where significant spending and circulation of money occur. Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley is on record as stating that during the Crop Over festival about BDS$80 million is pumped into the Barbadian economy. That is a figure not to be scoffed at. Indeed, it is one to be increased.
As stated by one of Barbados’ greatest exponents of the calypso art form and from whom is borrowed our opening salvo, Crop Over is not an occasion one should be missing. And that exhortation is for both those residing on Barbadian soil and the millions across the globe that tourism planners hope will take the opportunity to be part of a festival that is promoted as more than a carnival.
The increasing numbers involved at every level of Crop Over on an annual basis are testimony to the fact that for four decades it has been warmly embraced by the Barbadian public and an ever-growing number of regional and international personages.
But there are many who –– wittingly and unwittingly –– could do this important event grievous harm. Policing such a festival is a time-consuming and enormous task that draws significantly on the resources of the Royal Barbados Police Force. Policing Kadooment Day, with its often massive intoxicated crowds, has the potential of being a logistical nightmare. Thankfully, Barbadians have generally been of exemplary behaviour, and serious incidents have been few.
However, some imbeciles have been involved in shootings, robberies, woundings, and other offences on Kadooment Day that mar the occasion. There has been the occasional violent death occurring on the final day of the festival that does nothing for its promotion. Law-abiding revellers must act as additional eyes for authorities when fools would seek to do Crop Over harm.
There are many who criticize the festival and have a right to make enlightened fault of Crop Over. Whether they have the right to coat folly with religious fervour is another question. Recently one member of the cloth suggested that Kadooment Day be abandoned. For all the good that accrues from that day, he wanted to see the back of it basically because of gyrating women and men. He saw no issue with tossing the baby to its demise along with the bath water.
But at some stage it must be accepted by all and sundry that Crop Over is a secular festival. And while we expect a certain degree of decency still to be maintained during street parades and partying, one should not expect to see hands raised with beer and brandy in supplication to the Creator.
Those with the country at heart should be looking at ways and means to build and increase the capacity of the festival; not to tear it down or dampen enthusiasm for it. We are sure that if a census of Barbadians was taken, the general opinion would be that Crop Over remains Sweet Fuh Days.
Long may it remain that way.