December holds the ace for the highest number of socio-cultural events in Nigeria. From the South West to the South South, a carnivalesque ambience engulfed the nation spewing forth different cultural displays and activities. OMOLOLA ITAYEMI recalls some of the bits that made the season interesting
Ondo’s MARE festival…
This was the highlight of yuletide entertainment in Ondo state with Idanre as the host. The festival in its fourth year took place from December 13 - 15, living up to its billing as one of the yearly spectacle directing the tourism industry to its territory. Cheaper accommodations were completely sold out in hotels in Idanre and neibouring towns, leaving high-profile rooms like Presidential and Executive suites for intending lodgers.
Lodging: Hotels, inns as well as various hospitality outfits are mostly found in Akure the state capital where economic activities are at their peak. This period was no less so with cheaper accommodation almost fully booked. In spite of the pressure on the facilities, hoteliers did not increase their rates. Single rooms still went for N10,500 a night in some hotel though finding a room at that price during this season was almost impossible. I finally found one at Emperor Hotel but single rooms were already sold out. My friend and I settled for a double room at the prevailing rate but at much more than we budgeted for. It’s cheaper to book ahead than wait till you get there. Other hotels like Flourish and Royal Bird Hotel at Alagbaka were completely sold out.
Cuisine: Grilled fish and fried yam delicacy at Flourish Hotel, Alagbaka was a finger-licking experience. Non-stop music from their in-house DJ caressed the ears. Out-door setting with bright lights completed the setting.
Aesthetics: the twenty-minute drive from Akure to Idanre provided the perfect opportunity to enjoy the well-paved road network. For those who have appreciation for natural endowments and landscaping, they’ll meet their needs on this drive. Enjoy the breathtaking landscape, (Idanre is blessed with hills of various shapes and sizes), rustic traditional setting and undulating terrain.
Moving Around: The influx of tourists to witness the festival was evident from the high number of cars which registration numbers was a parade of states in Nigeria. A quick dash to Ondo town from Akure by public transport on the last day of the festival showed a slight increase in fare. I paid N700 for the trip to Idanre instead of the usual N600. Aside that, transportation within Ondo State is quite cheap and the cabs were not operating ‘drop’ system commonly practiced in Lagos. Fares of commercial motorcycles however jumped significantly as a ride from Idanre Motor Park to Methodist Grammar School, Idanre (venue of the festival) cost N150 instead of N50, (150 percent increase) considering the short distance.