By ERIC ROSE
NASSAU, Bahamas – The Ministry of Tourism, the Department of Culture and Coconuts Bahama Grill have partnered to bring Junkanoo to the Western Esplanade on Friday, January 18 and Saturday, January 19 at 8 p.m.
The Ministry of Tourism’s Tours, Entertainment and Business Development General Manager Raymond Harrison said the initiative is one of the responses to the fact that there are “a good number” of cruise passengers who frequent that area with nothing to do.
“The owners of Coconuts realised this and decided to try to capitalize on this incremental market,” Mr. Harrison pointed out. “I envision that as we work together in developing a proper programme for the area, it will be financially beneficial to the businesses in that area and beneficial to the Ministry of Tourism and the Department of Culture, as we would be able to create an atmosphere to where our visitors will be able to come and be entertained and exposed to our culture in an environment where we would be able to offer so much.”
Department of Culture representative and Manager of the National Junkanoo Museum of The Bahamas Angelique McKay said the new initiative is a natural partnership because the Department previously worked with Coconuts in a programme to promote the sale and use of Bahamian art in local businesses.
“We use Junkanoo to promote The Bahamas in almost every single advertising campaign, whether it is visually or by audio and we do not always have the opportunities for persons to experience it,” Ms. McKay said. “One of the things that Coconuts has decided to do is to offer that Junkanoo experience.”
President of Coconuts Bahama Grill Eldin Ferguson III, said that the marriage between the agencies involved is natural and the restaurant is “looking forward to fulfilling the vows.”
“As a young Bahamian entering the workforce, I am looking forward to seeing how this will play out. I think it is going to be very exciting,” he said. “I think there are going to be a lot of high points for the restaurants, a lot of high point points for the Ministry of Tourism and the Department of Culture.”
Mr. Harrison added that he has been charged, in the Ministry of Tourism, with the responsibility of creating new tour programmes and live entertainment to improve on visitors’ experience. To that end, he has been working with the small Bahamian-owned businesses located opposite the Western Esplanade to do just that.
“The purpose is to create an exciting place filled with activities, entertainment and an opportunity for visitors to purchase and experience Bahamian cuisine, ideally on the beach or in either one of these restaurants and to be able to purchase authentically Bahamian made products,” Mr. Harrison noted.
“Coconuts Bahama Grill owners have been truly committed to helping to make this happen and have been trying to drive this on their own,” he added. “By working with them we will be able to develop an appropriate action plan that will truly bring that entire area back to life. In addition, we have Mr. Willie Armstrong of Chez Willie and Ms. Mona Lisa Thompson of the Daily Grind Cafe’, who are also playing their role in trying to bring back the area.”
Mr. Harrison said that there will be live music, Junkanoo, arts and crafts, and authentically Bahamian made products at the event. The beach area, he added, can easily become an extension of the businesses in that area and developing that type of programme would be able to keep visitors in that area for a much longer period as they would have things to keep them entertained and occupied.
Mr. Harrison said: “This then, provides more for our cruise passengers to do and we can then offer a great walking tour which will end there at the facilities and the beach where the visitors can then eat, shop, be entertained and when returning to the ship they will be able to stop into the straw market as well, there again providing additional opportunities for them to purchase more products and providing opportunities for the straw vendors.
“These plans will continue to develop as we seek more long-term initiatives in the area with all the area on board.”
“There are a lot of initiatives going on to create some excitement in the downtown area and this is something that will be a part of that,” Mr. Ferguson said. “We are definitely looking forward to this experience.”
“We are trying to ensure that the culture goes as far and wide as possible and to totally saturate the islands with things that are Bahamian,” Ms. McKay said.
The weekend event is expected to be the start of a more permanent activity that would bring another taste of Bahamian culture to the area.
Ms. McKay added that she hopes that other private sector entities will follow Coconuts Bahama Grill and other area businesses and take an interest in Bahamian cultural initiatives because there are many artists, musicians and craftsman in the country who could flourish with their assistance.
“One of the other things that the Department of Culture hopes for is that we do get the support of corporate Bahamas in being able to forge additional relationships because the Government cannot do it alone,” Ms. McKay said. “We need the support of the community in order to advance the development of culture within The Bahamas.”