By: Tony Best
After what’s being termed a “successful” 2012 West Indian carnival in Brooklyn that attracted about two million revelers and spectators, structural reforms to the organizers of America’s largest cultural festival are in the offing.
Timothy Bailey, President of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association which has been arranging the festival for more than 40 years, said that with last week’s Panorama, the Dimanche Gras, the parade of costume bands and other events associated with the carnival turned out to be a “success” the planners were already turning their attention to next year’s extravaganza.
“I have a group of people who have been working with me to make this a success and our goal was to make 2012 a reality and once this has been realized, 2013 here we come,” was the way he put in a radio interview.
In a report on the five day festival, Bailey, who took over the organization’s leadership after its president, Yolanda Lezama-Clark, abruptly quit and an interim president Kenrick Faustin quickly followed her a few weeks later, gave the Dimanche Gras much more than a passing grade and described the kiddies carnival as “a beautiful parade” The Panorama, he declared, was its usual outstanding self.
As for the costume parade along Eastern Parkway on Labor Day Monday, he said that although some spectators and others reported a smaller crowd than in previous years, the show turned out to be quite good.
“In terms of the presentation there was nothing to complain about,” he said. “I think, the bands, despite the short period of time they had to prepare, you know production was good. It was well received by the millions of people on the Parkway. In my opinion and the opinion of some people, the attendance was not as large as it has been in the last four or five years.”
He blamed any fall-off in attendance on some people’s apprehension about problems on the Parkway and on the state of the U.S. economy whose decline has hit the pocketbooks of revelers and spectators alike.
“Both” factors played a role in the decline.
Still, he said the overall festival turned out to be excellent.
“Based on what happened, incidents from last year, there were still some people who were quite scared about making an appearance on the Parkway,” Bailey added. “Prior to Labor Day week-end there were a lot of rumors floating that there wasn’t going to be any parade this year. Even in Trinidad, people were asking” about the possibility of an absence of the parade.
Asked about plans to restructure WIADCA by broadening the representation of different groups on the organization’s board of directors, Bailey said they had already started to make changes.
“We have started making plans for the future of West Indian-American Day Carnival Association. There are certain changes that are going to be affected,” he said. “These are being done to ensure that we move on solid ground.”
Reached at her home, Lezama-Clark, who attended the parade said that things went well but lamented the continued media portrayal of the festival as an event that was laced with violence.
“The violence which was widely reported by some sections of the media didn’t have anything to do with the Caribbean festival,” she said. “It’s a problem that arises almost every year despite the fact that the events to which media organizations refer occur either before or after the parade or were quite a distance from it. It’s quite unfair.”
Lezama-Clark, who indicated that despite her resignation from WIADCA’s presidency she remained on its board of directors, also said she was firmly in support of the staging of the festival.
“I resigned from the presidency but not from WIADCA’s board,” was the way she put it.