BY ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA
THE excitement that trailed 2009 edition of Calabar Festival, which started on November 30, 2009, with the lighting of the Christmas tree at the Millennium Park by governor, Liyel Imoke, ended on January 1, 2010.
For the days that the celebrations lasted, there was no dull moment in Calabar, as tourists trooped into the ‘Canaan city,’ to partake in the 32-day funfair.
The carnival, which held on Sunday, December 27, 2009, was the major attraction for tourists and Calabar residents.
Millennium Park, the start-off point for the carnival, had begun to throb early in the morning, with participating bands taking vantage positions.
Governor Imoke, accompanied by his wife, and some members of his cabinet, as well as guests, which included governors Rotimi Amaechi of River State and Timpre Silva of Bayelsa, declared the fifth in the series of the yearly gathering birthed in 2005 open.
Freedom Band (dressed in its traditional yellow colour) led the train of the five traditional competing bands (Bayside – blue ; Passion 4 – green; Seagull – red and Masta Blasta – orange) alongside over 16 non-competing bands, the largest ever in the five-year history of the carnival to strut the route of about 12 kilometres terminating at the J. U. Esuene Stadium.
As observed by many, this edition of the carnival, in many respects, was quite fantastic and historic, being the first time it would hold in the afternoon; but despite the late start under a scorching sun and extending to the early hours of the day after, Monday, December 28, the people were in high spirits enjoying the performance.
AS promised by the organsiers, it turned out to be one of the biggest street parties with the streets of Calabar filled by people of all ages.
Mr. Olusegun Ajamolaya, captured the feeling: “Oh! Oh! It is marvellous. I started with the carnival. I was the aide-de-camp to former Governor Donald Duke. So, we started this and it has ever been fun and fun…. I am very, very happy and excited. This is a legacy that has been established and it would continue to grow from strength to strength.’’
The winner of Big Brother Africa Revolution, Nigerian Kevin Pam, who was one of the celebrities at the carnival, expressed similar sentiment. “It is wonderful. I was here last year in a different way, but right now it is a big event and I am glad that I am part of the history.”
According to Kevin, “It is wonderful, we need to come to Calabar every December to celebrate the carnival.’’
For Dr. Edwin. C. Nwabunike, Medical Director of Springs Hospital, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, the family members had a memorable time in Calabar. He described the carnival as wonderful with power to attract large following.
Nwabunike said: “I learnt the Carnival started during the tenure of Donald Duke, which leaves the impression that good leadership would attract good following . I have also seen similar efforts from Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State. I urge him to keep it up, as his efforts would likely transform Port Harcourt for good.”
IMOKE expressed delight at the state’s ability to successfully host the carnival despite the limited resources of the state, adding that with the festival now having huge following, the challenge is for the state to maintain and surpass the appeal that it has created; he promised to make 2010’s edition greater. He also revealed that the state government is planning to ensure full participation of the private sector both in funding and organisation of the festival as from next year before ceding it to the private sector.
At the end of the carnival both Passion four and Seagull Bands emerged joint winners of the carnival. In the children’s category, Seagull Band won as band of the year aside winning the Queen in both the senior and junior categories as well as the Junior King category while Freedom Band won the Junior Queen.
THE carnival for the first time, this year, enjoyed the support and participation of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC).
The DG of NTDC, Segun Runsewe, at the event, pledged further assistance to the carnival, especially in the areas of marketing and promotion both within and outside the country.