Barbadians came out in thousands last night making for a grand finale to the 40th Oistins Fish Festival.
“The crowd was fantastic,” exclaimed Festival Committee Chairman Herbie Yearwood, who was around for the four decades of the Barbados showpiece event, from the time of its inauguration by the founding couple Stella Lady St John, and her husband Sir Harold St John.
Saturday’s opening events of the three-day festival gave no indication of the bumper attendance Monday night.
Rather, the opening parade of a few marching and prancing children made to weave their way through traffic seemed to foretell of a dull Easter event.
But just as the lacklustre organization of the parade was countered by the youthful enthusiasm of the marching and flouncing tots to teenagers, so did last night’s massive gathering of locals and a sprinkling of visitors on the town formed upon the sea contrast the tame opening.
The blaring music, energetic dancing, laughing children in the play area, robust eating and drinking, and the loud greeting of friends in the makeshift meeting place presented a picture truly 40 years removed from the Oistins of 1977.
Lady St John had given a timely reminder when she said Saturday, “let’s not forget what occurred here 40 years ago that breathed life in what was a sleepy fishing village with a few shops and houses lining a dark narrow road, stretching from Welches in the West to Enterprise in the East”.
The St Johns started the festival at a time when ‘Bree’ was a Member of Parliament, and they continued pushing it as Sir Harold went on to become Barbados’ third prime minister.
It was a big night for food and drink vendors. They enjoyed a brisk trade.
Other vendors, who sold costume jewellery and leather craft, reported moderate sales while some who normally ply their trade weekly said business was better than normal.
“That is quite possible. A lot of them get their sales from tourists particularly,” said Yearwood.
Though the veteran organizer was happy overall that planned events came off, he bemoaned the lack of funding from private enterprise, and the dwindling resources provided by Government.
“Some of the biggest companies in Oistins, we don’t get one cent from them,” he said, adding that the contribution from Government is, “nothing much – all being reduced every time”.
“We’re working under a very tight budget. It is totally disgraceful the amount of funding we get for a big festival like this.”
Herbert said the scarce funding has forced the organizing committee to rely on the assistance of volunteers but that too was on the decline.
“People just don’t volunteer. Everything they touch they want money.”
He called for urgent action to be taken to avoid failure in 2018, saying, “It’s not going to go on like this next year”.
But don’t tell that to the joyous, vibrating crowd that descended on the town. For them it was one big party.