A Guyana times photo

Carnival in Guyana: From whence it came

The streets of Georgetown and its outskirts are buzzing with people and traffic as the Cricket Carnival 2022 calendar of excitement started yesterday!

Cricket and carnival fanatics from across the globe are flying in to Guyana in droves as they are thirsty for this form of entertainment in Guyana, since the pandemic would have crippled the entertainment and hospitality industry for the past two years.

But how did we get here? How did Carnival become such a major tourist attraction offered in Guyana?

A DPI photo from Guyana Carnival 2019

Similar to many other success stories, the Guyana Carnival concept started as a simple conversation between friends, from Hits & Jams Entertainment.

Sharing the backstory on the creation of what is now one of the main drivers of tourism in Guyana, Director at Hits & Jams Entertainment, Kerwin Bollers said that six years ago, they saw the opening for a mega event in the May/June period of the year, and decided to capitalise on it.

In 2016, the then Government of Guyana had postponed the Republic Anniversary celebrations in February, to May, so that Guyana could have celebrated its 50th Independence jubilee in the form of the celebratory activities done for Mashramani. That year saw thousands of Guyanese returning home for the celebration and turned out to be the biggest Independence and Mash celebrations in the country’s history.

A section of the crowd at the Golden Jubilee celebrations in May 2016 (Stabroek News photo)

“The then minister of Tourism, Cathy Hughes had addressed the media saying that the reviews were so good, they are looking at the possibilities of having events every year around that period because of the number of persons that came into the country. A lot of people said that it worked for them because a lot of them get their tax returns in April, also for someone who may have returned for Christmas, it makes it a bit strenuous to return again in February for Mash, because the period is very short. We listened and thought it was a very good idea, so we looked forward to it the next year but the government said they couldn’t finance two major events in one year… It was just an idea that never got into being a reality so we thought that it was a very good opening to capitalise on. That’s when we decided to come in 2018 with Guyana Carnival,” Bollers shared.

At the introductory phase of the idea to Guyana, the team got some amount of resistance and criticism, as there were talks around that Carnival is not part of Guyana’s culture, and that the team should invest in boosting the Mashramani celebration instead.

He said they were not fazed by the criticisms as they saw the bigger picture, and understood well, the dynamics of such an event in this country. He explained too, that Carnival is not a confined culture, but rather, a global movement and Guyana need not be sidelined. 

He further explained that every country’s carnival is unique, and for each country, it provides the opportunity to sell their culture.

Director at Hits & Jams Entertainment, Kerwin Bollers

“When you go to different places, the experience is different. The carnivals are unique to various cultures. The food, the lifestyle, everything. What you experience in one country, you never experience in another. There are certain key elements that are there, but it is a way that we can also expose what we have here. These Carnival chasers are looking for new experiences and we have to look at it that way and use the opportunity to expose our food, our lifestyle, our culture, to the rest of the world. Now, most people would have seen the vision. It brought a lot of foreign exchange, it did really good for the economy. So many economic opportunities came during that period. For the Hotels, the government earned from airport taxes, salons, barbershops, boutiques, vendors. Those little things make you feel so good. Guyanese artists shared the same stage with some of the biggest names in entertainment. Any country can have a carnival, you just need to make sure that your identity and culture get that exposure,” Bollers said.

He further noted that the main objective of his team will always be to implement ways of promoting Guyana as a destination.

The team successfully executed two carnivals, 2018 and 2019, and 2020 was slated to be the year that would really make the concept take off in Guyana. Tragically, owing to the pandemic, there was no carnival here, two years in a row.

A section of the parade at Guyana Carnival 2019 (DPI Photo)

Fast forward to 2022, with the new PPP/C administration, the HJ team approached the government of Guyana with a revised version of the carnival for 2022 – merging the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) with Guyana Carnival, now making it “Cricket Carnival”.

At a media and corporate launch in May, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Charles Ramson said the collaboration was an important decision that necessary to accentuate the trajectory that Guyana is on.

Minister of Culture, Youth & Sport – Charles Ramson Jnr

“What I want everyone to understand is that Guyana is a unique country. As we evolve, as we transition in this period, and the country begins to transform, the pride and the uniqueness of Guyanese people, it must show itself to the world in a very elaborate way. This collaboration will form a new direction that the Government of Guyana has established as part of an overall vision of where we go, of creating this premier destination in the region, for world-class events. It was an important decision for us to have made, to secure CPL finals and semi-finals and to pair it with Guyana Carnival to create this brand called Cricket Carnival,” Ramson remarked.

CEO of Hits & Jams Entertainment, Rawle Ferguson

CEO of Hits & Jams Entertainment, Rawle Ferguson reminisced that the vision of having a Carnival in Guyana was a casual conversation between friends that grew into a magnificent global tourism product.

“Today is a very happy day. This actually started in a bottom house between Kerwin and a few friends of ours, and we came up with the concept of Carnival. And our perspective at that time was bringing happiness and bringing people together, bringing cultures together. And it was until we met His Excellency Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali, we figured out the economic benefits of Carnival and we married Carnival with cricket and wanted to bottle that and share it with all of Guyana and the rest of the world,” Ferguson said.

The Cricket Carnival is expected to happen for the next three years, with this being its inaugural year. See events on the last updated flyer below. Or visit www.cricketcarnival592.com for direct updates on the events.

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