Embrace Carnival 2012 and beyond

St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundations' (SCDF) youngest and energetic president, Stuart Johnson (27), said that Carnival has undergone a transformation like no other and confidence has been restored in the minds of carnival stakeholders.

Johnson said that the SCDF has looked at every facet of Carnival and continues to make the necessary improvements in the "people's festival." Much effort has gone into the marketing of St.Maarten's Carnival on a larger scale, SCDF continues working on promoting its name amongst influential stakeholders both locally and abroad, and has fostered a relationship with other Carnival committees in the region, such as Aruba, Curacao, Trinidad, Anguilla, Miami, St. Eustatius and Saba.

This year SCDF has focused strongly on the marketing aspect of carnival by placing a heavy emphasis on the marketing of local events as well as the general season of carnival. One of the major marketing aspects which the SCDF continues to be a welcoming addition is the three year agreement signed with Tempo Music Network.

"We feel proud of this agreement as it is a solid medium for the further promotion of St. Maarten's Carnival product," Johnson said. He emphasized on the carnival experience on St. Maarten is like no other, especially with our Festival Village and our line-up of activities which has a duration of two weeks.

The business sector has also shown a confidence and commitment to SCDF however, the operational cost of hosting our annual event exceeds the sponsorships received. "We've been able to work well with our corporate sponsors this year again because of the exposure opportunities they are receiving throughout our celebration."

"Much appreciation goes out to Minister Franklin Meyers for allocating Naf. 500,000 for the marketing of Carnival as well as the representatives of the Tourism Department for their unconditional support in this regard," Johnson said. May-Ling Chun and her team received high praises from the SCDF and hopes for a long standing working relationship continues.

Johnson minced no words in his appreciation towards Minister Rhoda Arrindell for her support to our annual celebrations especially with the participation of the Public School's carnival troupe for the Junior Carnival Parade. SCDF is also grateful for the support received by Minster Hiro Shigemoto and Minister Ronald Duncan.

"Carnival belongs to the people and it's time they take ownership to their festival. On that note, all businesses should sponsor and decorate their respective establishments during this special time of the year." Carnival benefits the community; businesses; directly or indirectly, everybody benefits from Carnival. And that is why we want to continue to develop our product, promote it and in the end a successful carnival season benefits everyone," Johnson said, noting that SCDF is always open to new ideas once it serves toward the betterment of our events.

SCDF is working on a five year plan which would comprise of the general vision for Carnival, key areas of further development and a marketing outline amongst others. By means of the social media such as Facebook, SCDF's fan page gets over 2,000 hits weekly. "Technology is connecting St. Maarten to the rest of the world, and for Carnival this means everyone can feel some of the vibes they're missing on," Johnson stated. He went on to say, that the live broadcast of our events such as the Calypso Eliminations and Finals as well as the Grand Parades is an opportunity worth embracing if you're not on St. Maarten.

For this Carnival season, six legendary calypsonians and one mainstay of the calypso art form on St. Maarten has been chosen to be honored this year. The SCDF will present special posthumous honors to the families of The Mighty Greg and The Mighty Cat, both former Road March kings. "These men were great entertainers and Carnival lovers. Cat stayed active with Carnival through his photography and producing songs such as the iconic Village anthem "Welcome to the Village. Greg's voice could never be forgotten and he grabbed every opportunity to sing when he wasn't competing. They are both missed and both deserve recognition," Johnson said.

The last person the SCDF intends to honor on April 20 is the Philosopher of Humor Fernando Clarke, not for his singing talents, but for being "The King of Calypso MC's". Johnson explained that MC means to "move a crowd" and added that there is none better than Fernando.

Johnson just over one year in the presidency looks back at the previous carnival season as a great learning experience, which will be valued for life, even in his professional career. He went onto say, "it is evident that the planning of Carnival is a year round activity and support must be given to the SCDF throughout the year." Currently the SCDF has over twenty members and twelve youth wing members which support the initiatives of the nine member board. He added, "In just one year we've done so much but there is always more to be done as we celebrate in grand style for 2012."

"The SCDF group is a vibrant group of individuals which comprises the board, the general membership and the youth wing," Johnson said. The SCDF executive board consists of President Stuart Johnson, Vice President Martin Wilson, Treasurer Erno Labega, Secretary Michael Granger, Assistant Secretary Vida Boyard and board members, Ronald Romey, Hazel Kishna, Hubert Pantophlet and Ewardo Radjouki.

"We encourage everyone to come out and participate in Carnival 2012 while having a safe and enjoyable time. Happy St. Maarten Carnival 2012 St. Maarten and long live St. Maarten Carnival," Johnson concluded.