SEEN UP NORTH – Festival Day still a success
How do you satisfy a gargantuan appetite not simply for Bajan food and drink, but for fun, music, education and camaraderie?The Friends of Barbados DLP Association, the New York arm of the ruling Democratic Labour Party, has been answering that question for the past seven years with its popular annual event Barbados Festival Day in Brooklyn.“It’s a good place to be if you wish to meet people, disseminate valuable information about a range of issues and to have fun doing so,” said Dr Ed Alleyne, president of the Caribbean American Medical and Scientific Association (CAMSA) and a key member of the Barbados Cancer Association (BACA) USA Inc.Basyl Barrow, a long-standing travel specialist in the Caribbean, said: “You are bound to meet someone you haven’t seen over decades and that’s one of the reasons why I come to the Festival Day. “This year wasn’t any different and I certainly enjoyed it.”They were but two of the 5 000 Barbadians who flocked to Commodore Barry Park, a large playground near the old Brooklyn Navy Yard close to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.“It turned out to be very successful, considering the last-minute arrangements,” said Anderson Eversley, president of the New York Dems. Uncertainty“There was considerable uncertainty about the venue and we only received the permit from the New York City Parks Department to hold the event at the Commodore Barry Park a few days before the function. “We had a large crowd despite the fact that we couldn’t undertake the promotion of Festival Day in the way to which we had grown accustomed,” Eversley said.The uncertainty about the location can be traced back to last year’s Festival Day at Canarsie Park, the original site, dominated by single and two-family homes, a cricket field, wide open spaces, shrubs and trees and playgrounds for children and adults. The New York City Police Department and the local police station house declined to issue a music permit that would allow entertainers and bands to belt out their popular tunes until the early evening hours.“Apparently after we left last year, another group moved in and played loud music for several hours and residents of the neighbourhood complained,” said a member of the association. “So we were denied the music permit.”InterventionBut the intervention of some Brooklyn elected officials – including borough president Marty Markowitz and others – saved the day. The music permit was issued a few days before the function.“Given all that transpired, I would say that it was very successful and the crowd was large, much larger than many had expected,” said Lennox Price, Barbados’ Consul General in New York, who for years had been a mover and shaker behind the day of fun, food, games and music.This year, the food and music were the key attractions. Whether it was cou-cou and flying fish, rice and peas, pudding and souse, sugar cakes, conkies, sweet bread, fish cakes, coconut water, mauby, sorrel or ginger beer, it was available in ample quantities.But unlike prior years, the games and competitions had to be scratched because of field conditions and the last-minute arrangements. The wheelbarrow races, sack and relay, cricket, volleyball, tug-o’-war, jacks and hop-scotch – all staples of yesteryear – were suspended.“We plan to bring them back next year when we have more time to plan it and to get the word out,” said Eversley.But what spectators missed in sporting activities they more than made up for in the music and entertainment provided by Technic Music Mix, Singing Francine and Barbadian calypsonian Statement. Organisations interested in health and social issues, including BACA Inc. and CAMSA, had booths where they distributed materials on various non-communicable and other diseases. The Barbados Tourism Authority also had a booth at the park.BACA will also sponsor a symposium on surviving cancer on September 18 at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Centre on Lenox Road. Cancer survivors and medical experts from both the United States and Barbados are to participate in the three-hour educational symposium scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.“This symposium entitled Survive And Thrive is part of our fifth anniversary celebrations,” said Dr O’Neall Parris, BACA’s new chairman. “We saw the Festival Day as an opportunity to reach a wide cross section of the Barbadian and wider Caribbean communities while they are having fun.”The Caribbean American Outreach Association and Millennium Sistahs is collaborating with BACA and CAMSA to stage the symposium.