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Committee Struggling to Keep Carnival Alive in 2005

Feb. 15, 2005 – Members of the V.I. Carnival Committee say they are determined to keep Carnival alive in 2005 despite not having any funding yet, and repeated "attacks" from members of the V.I. Legislature. This is in keeping with the theme selected by the committee, "Carnival is alive in 2005."
At a press conference Tuesday, Caswill Callender, executive director of the Carnival Committee, told members of the media and representatives from the Legislature that "no monies have been received thus far" for Carnival from the government or from private sources. Carnival will commence in less than three months.
Kenneth Blake, committee chairman, said neither he nor Calendar would put up their homes as collateral for any start-up loans this year, as they have in previous years.
"We haven’t gotten any start-up monies as yet, but the Carnival Committee still decided we’re going to put on Carnival," Blake said, adding they would wait for whatever money the government gives.
Last year, the Senate approved legislation reducing the government’s allotment to the Carnival Committee to $275,000 for 2005, down from $350,000 in 2004.
"We’re operating by a hope and a prayer," Callender said, adding that they have been struggling to pay rent for their office.
Blake said this year’s Carnival would be "bare-bones" because of the reduction in funding. Several activities have been scaled back, and both Latin Night and the Coronation Ceremony have been removed from the program. Both events were a part of last year’s Carnival.
Blake said the Latin Night is too expensive to do this year, and instead of having a Coronation Ceremony where winners from all the various pageants and competitions are crowned, winners will be given their crowns and whatever prizes the committee can afford on the night of the activity.
The boat races might be cut as well. Blake said he would be meeting with the boat-racing committee to see if they were still willing to hold the activity.
"We have consolidated some activities just to save money, because what we’re getting dictates the kind of service we can afford," Blake said. "But we have decided that whatever types of activities we put on, it will be to the best of our ability."
Blake said they are following a judge’s orders and are currently being audited by the Office of Inspector General. (See "New Law Ends Senate-Carnival Committee Standoff").
Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg spearheaded efforts for a government audit of the Carnival Committee’s books, but the committee initially refused saying they were not subject to an audit. The matter ended up in court last year, and the judge ruled the committee is subject to an audit, basing the decicion on a bill signed into law by Gov. Charles Turnbull in July 2004. (See"Carnival Committee Suspends Preparation ").
"We have nothing to hide," Blake said, adding that each year the committee submits financial reports to the government and the media.
Blake said the audit will show they did nothing wrong, but that he is not sure this will get Donastorg off their case. Blake said Donastorg seemed to have a "vendetta" against the Carnival Committee.
Callender also suggested Donastorg wanted to make an example of the Carnival Committee and that he is not sure to what lengths the senator would go to get that done.
Blake, a former champion Calypsonian, said that for the opening of the Calypso competition he would be singing a Calypso, "Open the Books," about Donastorg and his vendetta against the committee. But Blake added that he heard Donastorg sings Calypso as well, so he might have a comeback song, "Checking the Books."
Several other changes have been made to this year’s Carnival as well. Instead of naming the Carnival Village after a person, this year it will be named Calypsonianville in honor of all local calypsonians. The Food Fair is no longer called thus, but the Cultural Fair. This year it will be named "Jambi’s Marketplace," after Lucien "Jambi" Samuel Jr.
Calendar said there is a common misconception that the government helps Carnival, but in reality, he said, Carnival helps the government by bringing to the local economy about $65 million in revenue.
"The Carnival Committee has placed the community above self," Calender said. "To me the elected leaders should follow in that example."
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