AFTER a two-year hiatus, visitors to Tobago will once again get the opportunity to enjoy goat and crab racing at Buccoo over the long Easter weekend.
But it will not be the grand affair to which they have become accustomed but a scaled-down version of the popular event.
Buccoo/Mt Pleasant representative Sonny Craig confirmed on Thursday that an event, titled A Taste of Buccoo, will be held at the integrated facility on Easter Tuesday.
“We would have most what people are accustomed to, the crab races, the goat races,” he said.
Craig urged people to attend.
“The crowds will be welcomed, because there are no longer safe zones, and we are going to pull it off successfully.”
There was some speculation that the event would not be held for a third consecutive year after its main organisers, the Buccoo Village Council, issued a statement on Wednesday saying there would be no Buccoo Goat and Crab Race Festival over the Easter weekend.
Its decision came less than a week after the Prime Minister announced the removal of safe zones and covid19 restrictions in most sectors.
The Buccoo Goat and Crab Race Festival is one of Tobago’s signature cultural events. But it was not held for the past two years owing to the covid19 pandemic.
In its statement, the village council’s PRO Winston Pereira said owing to the “late notice of the repeal of the national covid19 health guidelines,” it would not be able to host the event.
“We also want to make it clear that we are not involved with any other comparable activity that may be held in the neighbourhood throughout the Easter weekend of 2022,” he added.
Pereira said the village council has already started organising for the “thrilling return” of the festival in 2023.
Craig said long before the Prime Minister announced the lifting of restrictions, last week Saturday, the village council had taken the position that even if the restrictions were lifted, there would not be sufficient time to pull off a successful event.
“So they basically said, respectfully, that they would not be able to do it. But being the representative for the area and having conversations with the other stakeholders, we thought that it could come off – but it would not be that full-blown event. It would be a taste of Buccoo.”
Craig said as the area’s representative, he was approached by the goat owners and jockeys.
“We were out of the loop for two years…The goat-race business is a dynamic business, because we are dealing with livestock, we dealing with a product that is not entirely indefinite in its ability to sustain itself.”
He said goat owners have reached the point where they are selling their animals “because they depend on this event yearly to keep them going.
“It is fairly lucrative, but it’s only a one-shot event basically. Maintaining the animals for this festival for an entire year has costs attached to it, because just as in the human realm, when the athletes are trained and specific diets are adhered to, the goats have that similar lifestyle.”
He said some goat owners have already sold their animals because there were no financial returns from the festival over the past two years.
Craig said this could lead to the demise of goat racing in Buccoo.
“It is all about the goat owners, the jockeys and the artform itself.”
THERE WILL BE RACES
THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine also said some form of goat racing would take place in Buccoo over the Easter weekend.
“For Easter, we spoke to the folks down in Buccoo and Mt Pleasant. We getting information that they may not be 100 per cent there in terms of wanting to do the event.
“But the goat racers in Buccoo, they want to do the event. So I have asked the area representative (Craig) and the folks at tourism to plan for it, and we will have some goat-racing in Buccoo over the Easter,” he told reporters on Wednesday, after Baptist Liberation celebrations at the Mt Bethel Spiritual Baptist church, Scarborough.
On that occasion, Augustine also said the THA will not be hosting the Tobago Jazz Experience this year.
But, he revealed, “A private promoter contacted me about having jazz and the THA will support something like that.
“It is too late for us to plan Jazz as a THA – no doubt. And of course, we have to take another look at jazz and whether it is viable or not altogether.”
HERITAGE FESTIVAL PLANS
Augustine said Tobago intends to resume hosting its heritage festival.
“I have asked the Division of Culture to begin to make preparations for that in July. So we have some time with that and we will, indeed, have the Heritage Festival in some form or fashion. But Jazz, from the THA perspective, no.”
“We appreciate that there are some fringe events and we will no doubt support them as much as we can.”
Augustine urged Tobagonians to be wary of covid19.
“All I will say is. Tobagonians. just please be careful as you participate in these activities. Know that the virus has not gone anywher. and we don’t want to go back to a significant rise in infections and deaths as a result of covid. So be cautious, careful, protect yourself. The requirement for the mask is still there once you are in public.
He was optimistic otherwise about the outcome of the lifting of public health restrictions.
“There isn’t any limit on the numbers for gatherings. So sectors that lost a lot of money during the lockdown can now begin to earn again and I will support them earning again, once they are doing it in a safe manner.”