Tobago cautiously optimistic about Carnival 2023

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A dame lorraine dances alongside other traditional Carnival characters at the launch of Tobago Carnival on on January 17, 2020, the last time the festival took place before the onset of the pandemic in May. FILE PHOTO/DAVID REID

Tobago stakeholders have expressed cautious optimism about the National Carnival Commission’s (NCC’s) plan to begin preparations for a full-fledged celebration in 2023.

NCC chairman Winston “Gypsy” Peters signalled the commission’s decision on Friday, saying the decreasing numbers of covid19 cases and easing of public health restrictions suggested a normal celebration was possible next year.

“As of now, we are planning for Carnival 2023, and I like the trajectory of the pandemic. It is subsiding all over the world and we are no different,” he said.Peters said the NCC needed enough time to organise events while monitoring the pandemic.

Veteran bandleader Gemma Bedlow said while it is necessary to put plans in place, the NCC must tread cautiously, given what she believes is the unpredictable nature of covid19.

Wary of another strain of the virus on the horizon, she said, “There is a next wave coming, and to put thousands of Trinidad and Tobagonians out there…we have to wait and see how the pandemic will flow.

“But that don’t mean you will not start to put systems in place. We would have to look at the covid19 numbers and if people are doing the right thing. That is what we have to study.”

Bedlow said bandleaders are preparing for a Tobago Carnival in October.

She said if there is a Carnival in 2023, only the junior bands will be taking part, not the seniors.

“We cannot hold two Carnivals, because they will be coming back with the same costume, and that don’t make sense. That is wrong. You can’t have mas for the national Carnival and come back with the same costume in October.

“We prefer to have the junior parade of the bands only for the national Carnival.”

Bedlow estimates about 19 junior bands could take part in Carnival 2023.

With plans already on stream for the Tobago Carnival in October, she said the rate of new covid19 infections will also have to be monitored, “because this virus is not going away now. We don’t know what will happen.

“But we are still preparing for the October Carnival.”

Manager of D’ Masters Kaiso Tent Sherwin Cunningham welcomed the NCC’s plan to host a Carnival in 2023.

“I am in agreement that plans must be put in place. According to the direction the pandemic is heading, we cannot really wait until it is too late to start,” he told Newsday. “So if plans are being made for a full Carnival in 2023, I think it is best to start now, because if something worsens, then you could always make adjustments to your plan,s but at least you have plans in place. So I am in support of that.”

Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association vice-president Carol-Ann Birchwood-James also applauded the NCC’s decision but is still very concerned about the country’s vaccination status.

“When you look at all of the other countries that have opened up, they have a vaccination rate of over 65 per cent, and we are barely 50 per cent,” she said. “So we still need to have our vaccination drive. We have a whole year to see if we can build another 15 per cent.”

Describing covid19 as an “uncertain virus,” Birchwood-James said, “If it is that we have a situation where we are deteriorating, we can halt our camp. So maybe it is a good idea to start planning from now, bearing in mind that this virus is an uncertain virus.

“We make our plans respecting the virus and know that we have to adjust our plans. Plans can change according to how the virus behaves with us.”

Birchwood-James said the country’s latest numbers are encouraging.

“We are not looking too bad, even though our numbers are fluctuating. But we just have to keep with our vaccination drive.”