The Oistins Fish Festival (OFF) again proved this year to be a major crowd puller for locals and visitors over the long Easter weekend because of its entertainment value.
However, the festival, currently in its 39th year, faces some major challenges, including inadequate political and Government support, generally poor response from corporate sponsors and a shortage of volunteers.
“The one that really bugs me most is that the businesses in Oistins don’t support it at all,” said perennial festival organising committee member, Herbie Yearwood. He added: “Some of the biggest companies wouldn’t sponsor anything.”
Yearwood was reluctant to mention any names but told Barbados TODAY of the exceptional two from the fishing town who came forward this year to help – KFC and gaming outfit, 777.
He reported a minimal increase in overall corporate sponsorship from across Barbados, with only telecommunications giant, Flow, coming on board in a big way and making a difference over last year.
Yearwood also bemoaned the absence of volunteers. He explained that since the festival generates no gate receipts, the only money available to pay hired help comes from the rental of stalls and vending spaces.
Sponsorship money goes towards prizes for the various competitions.
Another replay of last year was the call for improved facilities in Oistins by Minister of Health and parliamentary representative for the area John Boyce.
Bemoaning the poor state of facilities, Boyce had said: “Agencies of Government charged with responsibility to manage these areas, the Ministry of Agriculture, the National Conservation Commission, need to act swiftly and definitively to put regulations and controls in place to satisfy the urgent public need.
“Too many enquiries go unanswered by these agencies and citizens are left to act completely arbitrarily as they seek to make a living.”
Noting this year that the fish market needed maintenance, he criticized Government’s sloth in repairing buildings.
“This, however, has been a feature of our governments in that we tend not to be able to take care of our buildings and our property in the way that we should to maintain them in good order for the uses.
“Too often we allow our buildings to decay around us and then have to look for millions of dollars to build replacements, and it is very expensive,” Boyce added.
Yearwood also expressed disappointment over the absence of ministers of Government and other officials at the three-day event, a presence which he said would add esteem to the festivities.
Some politicians were highly visible at the official opening of the festival on Saturday, but were hardly seen thereafter.
Yearwood said this has been so throughout the years, regardless of the political party in Government.
Besides the entertainment, the only positive that remains the same is the repeated wins by Tyrone ‘Dolphin’ Shorey. For the 12th straight year, he was adjudged King of Oistins in the festival’s most popular event – dolphin skinning.