THE much-hyped 10th Annual Rockstone Fish Festival which began last Sunday at Rockstone Village in Region 10 failed to serve up the pomp or grandeur promised by organisers at the launch ceremony earlier this month.While day one was somewhat okay, it was quite surprising that the event was being officially declared open by a representative of the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) who informed that she was officiating on behalf of Ministry of Tourism Director General, Donald Sinclair who had been called away to attend an important function.
On the second day of the festival, Rockstone Tourism Association President, Lynette Benn welcomed the sizeable gathering and thanked the sponsors who had come forward in support of the event. She expressed the hope that the event would develop into a better tourism feature over the coming years.
Rockstone Village Representative, Faye Allicock said that she was happy with the continuous development of the Rockstone Community, and was hopeful that the event would eventually become a major tourist attraction, even drawing visitors from the Diaspora.
As the cultural aspect of the event began it was quite evident that the entire festival was disorganized although there was a committee from Rockstone that was tasked with making it a resounding success.
Promised boat rides
There were certainly not much of the promised boat rides and visits to historic locations, besides a definite shortage of tour guides. The rafting competitions too were missing and persons
lamented about this.
Many suggested that the organisers should have brought in dance groups and fashion designers from the city to add glitz to the cultural aspect of the event. Although at the launch of the event committee members had promised order, this was very lacking since officials were hardly placed to spearhead the events.
At the launch Mrs Benn had committed to having persons adhere to the policy of catching fishes and returning them to the river afterwards, but several persons kept their catch in coolers filled with ice which they later brought to the city for sale and cooking.
During the fish cooking contest there was quite a stampede since allegations arose that one person had entered a fish meal of ‘banga mary’ (salt water fish) which was brought from Georgetown. According to organisers, all the fish meals had to be prepared with fish from the river in Rockstone. As the quarrels erupted on stage, several other tasters were sought out to determine the fish type and they all agreed that it was indeed a salt water fish that was used to enter the contest. Sections of the crowd erupted in loud protest when the judging panel awarded the very ‘banga mary’ fish meal second place in the fish cooking competition.
Up to around 16:00hrs when reporters left the event there was no fish deboning contests as promised, neither was the promised ‘karaoke around a bonfire’ event ever executed.
No-show cultural group
The cultural programme saw international recording artiste, Julian Kattow performing over and over again as he tried to make up for a cultural group who the MC kept saying was a “short distance away.” However, the group remained a no-show up to press time but no one offered an explanation.
Interviews with picnickers highlighted the view that the event was better executed when it was in the hands of the then Linden Chamber of Commerce several years ago. Many informed that it was better planned during that period, and the cultural aspect was more ‘spicy’ so to speak.
Many persons who camped out over the two nights were aghast when organisers bombarded them demanding $1,500 and $2,000 for hammock and tent spaces, when this charge was not mentioned before the event, nor at the launching of the festival.
However when they approached a group of three reporters for hammock spaces and they flashed media identification cards they hurriedly departed looking quick perturbed.
Nonetheless, the audience was treated to poems by Kerri Henry and Esther Peters. And some females began to gyrate when Mr. Kattow performed the popular hit single ‘Roll It’ which gave instructions for the popular ‘Back Ball’ dance routine.
In the Kids Art Contest, Aston Peters placed first, with Kellisia Merttle and Antonio Peters following in second and third place respectively. The prize for the best drawing of the ‘patwa’ fish went to Valecia Jonas with Ashley Markano and Tyren Paul taking the second and third spots respectively.
Alen Mohamed of Georgetown won in the category for the Largest Fish Catch, a feat he had also performed in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Mr Mohamed in a brief interview underscored the need for more security personnel at the event and better monitoring by the officials.
Valecia Jonas won in the Schools Essay Competition, with her cousin Tatiano Jonas placing second. Valecia also took home top honours for the best drawing of the arapaima fish with Pachunna Simon and Keon Simon copping second and third respectively.
The Watermellon Eating Contest clearly had the highest number of contenders, but the female Tracy Hodge demolished her rivals to cart off a trophy and $5,000. In the Fish Cooking Competition Margaret Sampson carted off the first prize with Desney Weekes and Jennifer Fariender taking second and third respectively.
And in the Fish Catching Showdown, it was S. Gordon who emerged the winner, forcing Alem Mohammed into second place with Desmond De Nobrega placing third.