SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) has launched the schedule of events for Carnival 2022 with an eagerness to contribute to a recovering economy and rebuilding the country’s cultural development through all facets of Carnival. If all goes as planned, Carnival 2022 will be St. Maarten’s largest economic stimulator since the festival was last held in 2019, directly influencing the business, travel and cultural sectors.
It will be held against a COVID-19 backdrop for which the SCDF has simultaneously launched an extensive Carnival COVID-19 Safety Plan that calls for full vaccination or negative PCR tests (see related story). The plan builds on SCDF’s existing COVID safety plan, and is largely based on the successful templates of international festivals that have restarted during the pandemic.
After a two-year hiatus, Carnival 2022 will span 19 days, starting with the opening of Carnival Village on April 16 and closing with the burning of King Momo on May 3. If the March pre-Carnival events are counted, the entire festival spans 24 days.
The schedule features 11 locally-themed events in Carnival Village, 6 international shows, and three parades. The promoters of the staple shows of Carnival have all confirmed their concerts for Carnival 2022. These are the Night of the Hit Makers, Caribbean Flag Fest, One Love Reggae Concert, Bacchanal Sunday, Noche Latina and Soulful Company.
Out of an abundance of caution and choosing to focus on events it can control in terms of its safety plan and other COVID protocols in Carnival Village, the SCDF has decided not to host any jump-ups and Jouvert for Carnival 2022. The only road events that will be held are the Children and Grand Carnival Parades, for which certain approved protocols will be attached.
“As much as we love our Jouvert, under the circumstances there is no responsible manner for us to host an event that draws 25,000 people to the road, uncontrolled. That is not a tenable situation. We can have protocols for parades in discussion with troupe leaders and we can control an enclosed open-air venue like Carnival Village where our protocols and safety plan will be strictly enforced. Besides, we have events scheduled in the Village that will, to an extent, replace that feeling of the road anyway,” President of the SCDF Alston Lourens said.
He went on to mention how excited the foundation is to host the local events once again. “We have our pageants back, two-years of Calypso material, parade revelers have energy to let out, we will see a lot of our local bands on stage, a steel-pan show, a Breakfast Fete, our Village cooking competition the Cook-UP and our local specialty drink competition the Cock-Up. We miss these events that bring our people and our culture together,” he said.
Lourens used the opportunity to stress that Carnival 2022 offers St. Maarten a wonderful and historic opportunity to lead the way as the largest Carnival in the North Eastern Caribbean that can be showcased as positive example of how a festival can be held in a safe and responsible manner. This message, he said, was also relayed to Minister of TEATT Roger Lawrence when the SCDF met with the Minister to present its plans. “To assist our tourism product and the overall economy this is the re-start we’ve been waiting for as well,” Lourens said.
“There are competing festivals around us that cannot start because of the structure of their respective events. We have one significant advantage over them and it’s called Carnival Village. For years we have been bragging about the uniqueness of having an open-air, enclosed venue where everything is held. Now, it offers us the opportunity to enforce a sound COVID safety plan that is all-encompassing. Other festivals do not have this and thus cannot contribute to their economies the way they would like. We can and we are fully prepared to put on quite a cultural event for residents and visitors alike,” Lourens said.
Lourens said the foundation has been meticulous in putting together the schedule and have been communicating with its major corporate partners about Carnival preparations. As usual, there are still several stakeholders meetings that will be held in the months leading up to Carnival. He said the foundation has been inundated with calls from around the Caribbean and the world about St. Maarten’s Carnival, with people looking to travel to St. Maarten in the absence of other competing major festivals.
“We should never underestimate the importance of Carnival to the local vendor, the taxi driver, the small and medium hotel properties, food wholesalers and retailers, song-writers, musicians, DJ’s, costume makers, makeup-artists, bartenders, sound and light engineers, printing companies, beverage companies and more. Carnival moves every sector and after two years of non-activity, all of our partners and the economy of our country are ready to move again,” Lourens concluded.