No yam festival this year
The popular Trelawny yam festival will not be staged this year, as the organisers, the South Trelawny Environmental Agency (STEA), seeks to find a permanent venue for the event and bring on board investors.
The festival, which has seen steady growth in its popularity over the years, attracted more than 20,000 patrons to Albert Town last year.
STEA’s executive director Hugh Dixon said the festival suffered a small loss after spending $4 million to stage the event last year.
“The cost to stage it went up considerably, because we were catering for larger crowds.
We had increased costs for security, to provide parking, to fence the venue, provide additional attractions and facilities,” he said, adding that the gate receipts showed that only about half of the people who came to the festival were actually able to get into the venue.
Dixon told the Observer that the four year old festival has outgrown the Albert Town High School venue and that it was time to reorganise the event to bring on board investors to allow for the purchase of a permanent festival site and lessen the financial risks to STEA.
“We are a small NGO and we have to take all the risk to put on a $4 million -show that exceeds our annual operating budget. This puts the organisation at risk … It requires a wider base of investor,” he said.
To put on the Yam festival each year, STEA relies on the gate receipts, sponsorship and a small amount of funding received from the Social Development Commission.
Dixon said STEA is now looking at getting its sponsors, community members, as well as vendors and farmers, who participate in the festival each year, to buy a stake in the event.
He said two sites had been identified as a potential permanent venue, and next month STEA would start looking at what kind of instruments it would use to bring shareholders on board.
STEA, Dixon said, is aware that the festival’s absence this year will be a big disappointment for many – not just to the patrons, but also to the farmers and vendors who make special arrangements and preparations, the local school and community groups.
The yam festival, which serves to showcase the culture and heritage of Jamaica’s largest yam growing region, is usually staged over the Easter weekend with several activities including school competitions, cycle races, a 10k run; and a pageant that culminates in a grand show on Easter Monday.