THA Chief Sec: Over $300k for A Taste of Buccoo

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

VICTORY: Leroy Kerr, right, celebrates winning goat race six with Gunman in De Whole at A Taste of Buccoo at Buccoo Integrated Facility on Tuesday. Photo by David Reid

Chief Secretary Farley Augustine has revealed the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) spent just over $300,000 to host A Taste of Buccoo at the Buccoo Integrated Facility on Tuesday.

“The budget that was shown to me by the division (Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation) a week ago was a little over $300,000 for the entire festival,” he told reporters during an interview in the VIP stand.

Augustine said the THA had to cater for several things that were not factored into the original budget when the assembly was planning the event.

“But the budget is somewhere between $300,000 and $400,000 for everything that you see, that is inclusive of the prices, preparing the venue, all the infrastructure work, the tents and all of those things.”

On Tuesday, hundreds of people turned out to the facility to witness the return of goat and crab racing to the scenic, seaside village.

But the event was a scaled-down version of the Buccoo Goat and Crab Racing Festival, which has been a signature feature of Tobago’s culture for more than 90 years. The festival was cancelled over the past two years owing to the covid19 pandemic.

British national Gwen Swanson told Newsday she had never experienced goat and crab racing but said she thoroughly enjoyed the event.

“I think it is just good fun after all that the world has experienced over the past two years,” she said

Swanson, who usually visits the Caribbean on vacation, said she has not been to Tobago in about eight years.

She said she had always heard about the goat and crab racing festival but never experienced it.

“I will definitely be back.”

Last month, there was some speculation that goat and crab racing would not have been held for a third consecutive year after the event’s main organisers, the Buccoo Village Council, issued a statement saying it would not be in a position to host it during the Easter weekend.

Fans enjoy goat races in Buccoo for the first time in two years, at A Taste of Buccoo, on Easter Tuesday, at the Buccoo Integrated Facility. Photo by David Reid

The village council’s decision came after the Prime Minister announced on March 26, the removal of safe zones and covid9 restrictions in most sectors.

The village council’s PRO, Winston Pereira, said in a statement that owing to the “late notice of the repeal of the national covid19 health guidelines,” it will not be able to host the event.

He also absolved the village council of input in any other “comparable activity that may be held in the neighbourhood throughout the Easter weekend of 2022” but said they had already started organising for the “thrilling return” of the festival in 2023.

Buccoo/Mt Pleasant representative Sonny Craig subsequently intervened after listening to the concerns of goat owners and jockeys, many of whom had suffered financially as a result of the shutdown of the event over the past two years.

In a recent television interview, Craig said, “The goat race is a dynamic business because we are dealing with livestock, we dealing with a product that is not entirely indefinite in its ability to sustain itself.”

He added goat owners, just to survive, were selling their animals “because they depend on this event yearly to keep them going.

Augustine made it clear the THA has no intention of taking over the event.

“Let me say this, the idea is not that the THA will take this over. The THA is only doing it this year because the village council, they were not prepared to do it themselves.”

He added, “But on a normal basis, the village council will run the operations here and the THA will sponsor things like the VIP section and other big sponsors will come on board. That will normally reduce the cost.

“But in the absence of time, because this was last minute, we had to take up the full bill for this activity. But I think it was worth it because it allowed for tourists to spend an extra day on the island to enjoy a Tobago holiday, which is the Tuesday.”

In his address, Craig gave an overview of the goat and crab racing festival since its inception more than 90 years ago.

He also recapped the developments that led to the hosting of this year’s event.

“When it appeared as though there would be a third year without goat racing in Tobago, the Goat Owners Association reached out to me and the Tobago House of Assembly to make this event a must in 2022.”

He added the THA then made a commitment to bring back goat races to Buccoo.

“And we are extremely happy to bring it back to the Tobago calendar of events. Without this event in 2022, the goat owners insisted that this unique tradition might very well be lost forever.”

President of the Goat Owners Association Cuthbert Alexander also thanked the THA for joining with them to preserve the tradition so that it can be passed on to future generations.

Assistant Secretary in the Division of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation Megan Morrison also spoke.

A street procession, featuring moko jumbies, minstrels, gorillas, bele dancers and other costumed Carnival characters heralded the start of A Taste of Buccoo.