Tourism: The glitz, glamour, excitement of carnival Calabar 2017
The biggest street party in Africa, popularly known as carnival Calabar that hosted thousands of local and international contingents, at the Cross River State capital, Calabar, stepped up the socio-cultural fiesta with innovations that kept spectators spell bound for days.
The carnival fiesta which is the high point of a 32-day festival for the calabar people was also a special moment put together by the Cross River State Government for Nigerians to host the world during the Christmas holidays as well as an event to usher in the New Year.
The 2017 edition, was a far departure from the previous one as it did not only entertain all and sundry, but also lived to its name as the biggest street party in Africa with an awesome crowds positioned at different adjudication point on the 12 kilometre route of the carnival,.
The fun started on December 26, 2017 with the children carnival which is entered its third edition last year. The platform for the children carnival was a move to build the younger generation for the future of the tourism industry and believe me the excitement took a new dimension at every edition of the carnival with the 2017 getting resounding cheers from carnival lovers, visitors and tourists alike. However, the 2017 event was spectacular, promising and a model to build on for a sustainable event.
On the 27 December, the digital governor, Professor Ben Ayade’s new addition to the fiesta, a bikers session also came with a parade of vintage cars and out-of-this-world customised motorbikes rode on the route of the carnival by the digital governor Ben Ayade, former governor Donold Duke and other will wishers, a stunt and thrill that continue to upstage Carnival Calabar among its global competitors even when it was just a decade and three years old.
The biker’s session gained more momentum creating a new niche audience for the multi-dimension carnival float.
The carnival, unlike any other created activities and participating windows for everyone irrespective of the age, ethnic difference and race, making the 2017 edition a true migration street party.
For most of the carnival lovers at different adjudication point, the carnival was described as a reflection of the people socio-cultural lifestyle and support for the state tourism passion, mission and resolve to keep on holding the ace as the capital city of Nigeria.
Many saw Carnival Calabar as the best in the past 10years, according to the carnival lovers who described themselves as the custodian of the street part said, “Carnival Calabar might have presented the best ever Carnival this year. I know we would all say that they started and ended late, crowd control was poor and there was confusion everywhere, but let’s face it, this was a carnival like no other.
“Everybody had fun! Let’s say the truth, with all the visible and maybe some few errors made by organisers, everybody found a way to have fun and that’s why I give this carnival an ‘A’.
“For the first time, Carnival Calabar lived up to its purpose as Africa’s biggest street party. Yes for the very first time, the Carnival was less of a show and more of a party.
“For the first time, it was not all about the carnival performances and floats, it was more of friends coming out to have fun, meeting old and new friends and just taking advantage of the platform the carnival gave them to be themselves, to dress like the wanted and not feel weird. Even I had my best hair braids on.
Most of the speakers who are either visitors or Cross Riverians along the Marian road added so much value to the event. There was music everywhere. People in their groups, boys and girls, family did their ‘one corner’ get together in every corner dancing around with their wine glasses, small chops among other party item enjoying with their family and friends.
Another carnival enthusiast continued, I see a turnaround in what Carnival Calabar is all about. Nobody cares about the performances. When we turn up in the streets, we come with our own fun. Whether the Carnival starts early or not, nobody cares, the party already started where we are chilling. Whether the trucks play our song or not, no one cares, we came with our own music.
“The people have given up. They can no more wait for the government to make Carnival Calabar great again. Carnival Calabar has officially been hijacked by those that matter most, the people.” The carnival enthusiasts added.
However, the carnival has gradually become the people carnival a passion that will continue to sustain the vibrancy of the biggest street party in Africa.
The Carnival theme ‘Migration’
Migration the theme of the 2017 carnival did not only add spectacular colours to the fiesta but also a pivot that controlled the social ambience of the bands presentation which made the interpretations of the competing bands coordinated, serialised and presentable. Year in, year out the theme of the carnival have been a focal point of the carnival coupled with the three pre-carnival dry-run, a model that was build up to assess and re-assess the event before the main carnival. However, the singular model has become one of the stupendous secrets that made the yearly carnival Calabar thick. A year last had climate change and that of 2017 was the effect of climate change, ‘Migration’.
The migration was true in all totality, going by the turn out of the locals, the carnival custodians, visitors, state participation and international audience and contingent that thronged the carnival capital of Nigeria.
When and where the fun began
Climate change has changed the course of so many things even events that are preplanned. One of such events was the yearly Carnival Calabar where visibility problem has on several occasion deprived landing and taking off of plane in and surrounding airport thereby hampering the early arrival of international contingent for Carnival Calabar. However, in 2016, most Calabar bound flights from Lagos and Abuja were both diverted to Port Harcourt before the contingent were later taken to Calabar with buses. The journey, was though long but full of fun as the trip availed the visitors detailed window to feel people’s cultural affinity, trades across boundaries and historical landmarks as they travel from one ethnic boundaries to the other, an experienced spiced with fun as the contingents were allowed to meet and exchange pleasantries in the buses making new friend on their way to Calabar.
The 2017 carnival was not different as the weather in most of the airport close to Calabar were not cleared for landing and on the first day of arrival of contingent to Murtala International Airport, their flight to Calabar and Port Harcourt and even Uyo were canceled and most of the visitors passed the night in Lagos. But the fascinating drama was the unprecedented turnout of event at the Lagos Airport, when fun and carnival spirit broke loss and the Kenyans, Ukrainians and South Africans, in the spirit of carnival started taking turn to entertain different visitors stranded at the airport. It was a spectacle better experience than narrated.
Last year’s edition of the Carnival Calabar was the mother of the past 12th edition in the area of attendance, innovations and performance as it recorded the highest numbers of international contingents, which include loyal returnees and first timers, visitors with Imo State contingent lead by Governor Rochas Okoracha. The international carnival also recorded 18 countries in attendance which was not only encouraging and good leveraging for Nigeria’s international marketing and promotion, but also a strategic avenue to paint a big picture of the countries rich cultural potential, people and investment opportunities.
Some of the international contingents include South Africa, Ghana, Brazil, Ukrain, uthuania, Kenya,Swaziland, Tanzania, Ethiopia, France, USA, Croatia, Italy, Mexico, Turkey, Senegal among others.
Winners of the International Carnival
Back to back, the Brazilian contingents have loyally participated for more than three years at the state carnival with renewed commitment to continued to be a step ahead of other contending countries, and the 2017 outing was glamorous as they top the winning list with 790 points.
Also South Africa, the rainbow nation which made its third comeback to the carnival, came second with 757 points while the Ghanaians who made a debut in 2016 and won the third place, redoubled their energy at the 2017 edition as they were part of the winners, clinching to third place with 742 points.
The performances of the entire international contingents were not only energetic, but also thrilling and entertaining which attracted a resounding applaud from the audience at the stadium.