The annual San Jose Succotz Fair is an anticipated event in the calendar of activities in the west. It is a culturally enriching experience that attracts visitors from all over the country and across the border, who make the trip to the village situated across from the Xunantunich Maya site. The event takes place this weekend and preparations are about to be completed, but a dispute has broken out between the village council that runs the fair and the nearby school. News Five’s Marion Ali reports.

Marion Ali, Reporting

The Succotz Fair has become a hallmark event over the years for the village and surrounding communities, attracting visitors from as far west as Melchor de Mencos, Guatemala, and as far east as Belize City and the north. But this year, there is conflict over the venue for the event between the Village Council and the Succotz Roman Catholic primary school. Principal of the educational institution, Vivianni Teul, told News Five that the Village Council’s decision to hold the fair on the football field right next to the school is detrimental to the progress and wellbeing of the children, because the works that have been taking place right outside the classrooms since Tuesday have been distracting to the schoolchildren. But even more serious than that, a few of the children have gotten hurt after they went on the mechanical rides being set up.

Vivianni Teul, Principal, San Jose Succotz Primary

Vivianni Teul

“The fair right in the grounds of the school that is the problem. It is right in the immediate surrounding area of this school and it has been causing a big distraction to our children at this moment. There has been some hazardous incidents. Like for example yesterday there were three of our children that were caught by the contraption on the ground and they fell and they got slightly injured. But small children, that’s a lot of injury. Also the distraction that is being caused at the moment, our children cannot focus since Tuesday when the installation began.”

Wilson Patt

But Village Councilor and spokesperson for the Succotz Village Council, Wilson Patt, says the only place that was suitable for the growing event is the football field.

Wilson Patt, Spokesperson, Succotz Village Council

“Anywhere you go, you find problems but you have to work along with it and for the village. We are trying our best. All the revenues coming from the fair will be for the development and the betterment for the village. We are trying to work along with the school. We don’t have nothing to hide. This is the first time we’re having the fair here at the football field. What happens is that there school; the children are running up and down, they are children. If you tell them not to go there, he still go there because he sees action happening. Curiosity; they will go anyway you take it. But like I said, we are trying to work along with the school, to assist as much as we can. Sometime I personally have to stop and say, hey don’t go there; please stay outside. I am doing my job.”

Patt says the Village Council hopes to raise at least five thousand dollars from the event, a portion of which will go towards the school itself.

Wilson Patt

“We have special project and the school is in it also. We are trying to at least help with the bathrooms. Right now the bathroom facility is a mess. The plan of the village council is to assist the school as much as we can. We are not hiding from nothing. If there is a need in school, I personally commit myself to assist the school in whatever reasons they need.”

But while the school appreciates the assistance from the Council, Principal Teul says the Council did not consult with the school but merely told them that the fair was going to take place beside their compound.

Vivianni Teul

“When they came to tell me that they had intentions of doing it here it wasn’t to ask me if I think they should or should not. Simply they said that they were going to have the fair here. And I told them it wasn’t going to be a good idea. But anyway, they are the village council; they own that piece of land over there, the field right in front and everything. So they did what they did. I would only recommend that they look for an alternate area that will not distract our children during the school time.”

Marion Ali

“Have you considered as a school body to perhaps put a fence around your compound so that the distraction and the incidents of injuries are minimized?”

Vivianni Teul

“A fence will not help, a fence will not help. How high can you build a fence that the distraction will be minimized? Definitely you cannot build a fence so high. Secondly, the children will always be let out at two-thirty or at three-thirty when they leave or when they are coming from home and they will come straight right through the middle of the whole halabaloo here.”

But to avoid any more conflict in the future, Patt says the Council is already seeking to take the event elsewhere next year.

Wilson Patt

“We have decided to get a parcel of land and we will develop a multipurpose building—with a football field, with a fair grounds and everything—so everything will be moved on that side. I don’t see why we have to make a big noise for something small. Like I mentioned the funds of the village will be used for the development and the proper of the village.”

That new location is about a quarter mile away from the school and will be a four acre space ideal for community events. Reporting for News Five, I am Marion Ali.