Carnival has always been a traditional and integral part of the September celebrations. It is perhaps the most anticipated event in the calendar of activities for the mas camps as well as spectators who line the streets to take in the color of the flamboyant costumes as well as the energy of the revelers. But there is trouble threatening this year’s bacchanal from ever reaching city streets. News Five’s Andrea Polanco reports.

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

There is trouble brewing for the carnival bands, principal among them is the lack of start up funds and low sponsorship. But there is also a problem with the date set for this year’s Carnival which has pushed several bands to say that they will sit out this year’s September Celebrations. Gilbert Davis, one of the Chairmen of the Belize Carnival Association says that this year’s event is still up in the air:

Gilbert Davis: 2nd Chairman, Belize Carnival Association

Gilbert Davis

“We come to an agreement that okay we cannot change the date and due to finance is something really slow from different sponsors, go back to NICH and ask them for start up funds which will be around fifteen hundred to two thousand dollars. Since the date cannot really move we went back to NICH with that scenario and they say that will be a no-no for one date cannot change because that is based on the tenth day of September. The start up funds was a no-no at this point of time. So we actually went back and meet with the bands once more and umm we had a talk with them and they decide hey eleven bands, eight voted not to come out, three voted yes. That was the last meeting held with them and they decide that but after that we began to get mix feelings that umm the same ones we actually spoke to in that particular meeting decide that hey I’m not sure so I might join the next three. So at this point we’re in what we call like a standing position then to find out who want to come out and who all not want to take part in this year’s event.”

Andrea Polanco

“So that start up capital that the bands need was this something that you all have been getting over the past few years or?”

Gilbert Davis

“About three years back we tell the bands listen, you want the prize to raise we gonna cut the start up funds, unfortunately another two years went by they agree okay no start up funds, let the prize rise. Two years went by and there was no start up funds but no prizes raise. So again they get quite annoyed.”

For Marina Welcome the start up fund is critical for Jump Street to get on the road this year:

Marina Welcome

Marina Welcome: Jump Street Posse

“It’s very hard and I like NICH to understand carnival is not an overnight thing. Normally I start from December to make that money for carnival. I used to sell food on the street side. If you notice I don’t have on any jewelry—all is gone in the pawn shop. Sponsorship is down. I don’t thing it is because the people don’t want to sponsor us, but time is hard. So all we are asking NICH for is to give us a start up fund because you know it’s late. King and Queen will be like the twenty-seventh, Carnival should be on the third of September. All we want is a little start up fund to help us go along with.”

Dorla Vaughn of Black Pearl, one of the oldest Carnival Bands, says that the date set, September third, is too early and the lack of start up funds only compounds the problems:

Andrea Polanco

“So if Black Pearl doesn’t get this start up capital, will we see Black Pearl in this year’s Carnival?”

Dorla Vaughn

Dorla Vaughn, Black Pearl

“We give them wah option: you give us the two thousand dollars if you want carnival the third of September. And my thing is now because they make we have to deh pan media and thing, dah both—they need fi change the date plus di start up fund. That dah my thing and I di speak pan my behalf.”

Andrea Polanco

“This date only gives you guys three months and that’s certainly not enough.”

Dorla Vaughn

“That noh enough. We’ve been having meeting from April but when we went to the meeting, they had everything set out. They don’t sit with us and let us agree with nothing—they just want di shub thing down our throat and me dah one person weh can’t take nobody di shub anything down my throat.”

So what will Carnival be like if eight bands don’t take to the streets come September? It’s certainly not a good look for Belize says Davis:

Andrea Polanco

“So from your perspective with, if eight bands should decide not to partake in Carnival. What will this mean for the September Celebrations in terms of Carnival in Belize?”

Gilbert Davis

“I will say if the eight bands stick to what they’re actually saying it will be a black eye on Carnival, on the tenth of September on a whole for this year. Actually people come from abroad mainly for the Carnival not really for the tenth nor twenty first.”

Andrea Polanco

“So if you don’t get this start up capital Miss Marina, will we be seeing Jump Street come carnival day?”

Marina Welcome

“Well it depends upon who wants to sponsor me. If I get a sponsor, of course I will come. But without the start up funds and without a sponsor, come on.”

Patrick Thompson

The Carnival Association says that they are calling on NICH for the much needed assistance:

Patrick Thompson, Chairman, Belize Carnival Association

“As the president or chairman of the association, I am representing the band and I am pleading to the people at NICH to try and find a way how we can help these bands if it is just for this year so we can move carnival forward.”

Reporting for News Five, I am Andrea Polanco.