Blockbuster Show Expected as Carnival Calabar Unveils Innovations


Different takeoff points for each of the competing bands, Wi-Fi on the carnival route, acrobats from Korea, collaboration with Nikon and many more novelties are bound to make this year’s Carnival Calabar an unforgettable one, writes Demola Ojo

The annual Carnival Calabar and Festivals is here again, with the 12th edition of what is widely accepted as “Africa’s Largest Street Party” set to take attain greater heights with new tweaks initiated by Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade.

With a recession hampering many Nigerians ability to travel out of the country for holidays, there is no better time to embrace local destinations. And with the Carnival Calabar growing from strength to strength with new ideas birthed by the state’s chief executive, there seems to be little option for those desirous of having a great time without having to spend increasingly expensive dollars (or other foreign currency).

A team from Cross River State was in Lagos last week to intimate members of the press of the innovations to take the carnival to the next level. They were led by Cross River Commissioner for Information, Mrs RosemaryArchibong; Carnival Commission Chairman, Gabe Onah; Special Adviser to the Governor on Events, Ken Anklah and the Director General of the Cross River State Signage and Advertisement Agency, Stanley Nseomo.

A month-long festival which started at the beginning of the month, the show will shift gears tomorrow (Monday, December 19) with a city lighting event and Christmas festival opening variety night complete with fireworks. According to the team, the lighting on the carnival route – and indeed the city as a whole – will be taken up another level. This will be complemented by Wi-Fi on the carnival route, which for obvious reasons is a big plus.
There’s a three-day TINAPA Family Christmas starting on the 22nd, a Nickelodeon experience especially for the kids. The 22nd will also see the return of the Cultural Parade which will feature the local governments in Cross River State and participation from other states across the country.

Colourful picture by the writer from a past carnival

Another new concept is the African Food Festival starting Friday, the 23rd, with the Festival of Carols on Christmas Eve and Christmas Carnival Concert on the evening of the 25th.

The show will go up a notch on the week starting December 26, the beginning of what the organisers have tagged a “Power Week”. There will be a Youth Carnival on that day, another new development. According to Anklah, the idea is to bring an academic bent to the carnival. “We want to be able to do researches. So we thought that some universities should be given the opportunity to come and interpret the theme of the carnival which is Climate Change.“

On the 27th, there would be a Bikers Parade. The concept which was introduced last year by Governor Ayade will be bigger this year, according to the carnival team. There will be two competing biker groups. Each group averages between 150 and 200 bikers and promises to be more eye-catching than the debut edition. Among the famous faces would beformer Cross River Governor Donald Duke and Senator Dino Melaye.

On the same day, there will be a street party, a new concept distinct from the street parade. There will be a street dedicated to music and dance, with some of the best DJs in the country showing off their craft.
A Governor’s Ball will be held later in the day where attendees will be able to interface with the governor, sponsors and other dignitaries in a relaxed atmosphere.

The highlight of the carnival will as usual be the street parade on December 28, where five bands will compete forprize money and eight non-competing bands (another novelty) will strut their stuff.

This year, there’s a new twist to the street parade. In the past, there was a particular take-off point where all bands congregated and proceeded one after the other. However, this meant the audience at the latter parts of the 12-kilometre carnival route (especially at a stretch called MCC where many hotels are) had to wait until late in the evening to see the bands pass through.

According to Anklah,“Because of this, some people get bored and tired of waiting. So we thought deep and created five different take-off points for the five bands. The idea is to get Calabar agog at the same time. So regardless of where you are, by evening you would have seen at least three bands pass through and perform when they’re still strong and agile. We have also increased performance points in addition to the traditional adjudication points.”

December 29 will be the day for the International Carnival. “We’re growing the International Carnival. This year, we have 20 countries confirmed. We’re still working on the processes to get more countries on board. They will also be competing for prize money,”Anklah revealed.

On December 30 will be the Green Carnival, Green Ball and Sponsors/Stakeholders Dinner as well as the unveiling of the 2017 Carnival theme.

At Tinapathere will be the Dark Knight motor drift rally and stunt display, while the Calabar Rocks music concert with some of Nigeria’s leading entertainers will take place at the stadium.

Describing the Carnival as a “veritable platform for job creation and a celebration for what we are, a people blessed with a welcoming attitude and a wonderful culture”, MrOnah revealed a collaboration with Nikon, the Japanese-based corporationspecializing in optics and imaging products.

According to Onah, Nikon will create a photo training school in Cross River State. “Over a hundred photographers are being trained by Nikon presently.” Taking advantage of the job opportunities in the creative industry are the reasons behind the new thinking, he emphasized.

Arising from the Governor’s desire to internationalise Carnival Calabar, there will be representation from Egypt and South Korea this year, in addition to many of the previous participating countries. “This year, we threw out our dragnet to over 20 countries. There will be a collaboration with South Korea on the night of the Kings and Queens Carnival (on the 26th) which will be called the South Korea Day. They are bringing an acrobatic performance to the stadium in Calabar.”

As part of activities geared towards the carnival, the Cross River State team revealed that Imo State Governor RochasOkorocha has invited Carnival Calabar to perform in Imo. “He might be the chairman of the APC governors, but he has invited a PDP governor, who will lead 250 carnival revelers to the Imo State Carnival, to show that this is a sector that is apolitical. We are not drawing lines. It’s across religion, it’s across political divide.”

Onah continued that the Carnival is a lot more than fun and games. ““We are fighting hunger using the carnival. We are fighting crime using the carnival, because our youths will be meaningfully engaged.

“Those performing in the choreography started learning how to dance since June, prior to the first dry run. Today, a costume industry that led to the establishment of a garment factory in Calabar is beginning to gain acceptance. We used to go as far as Port Harcourt and Owerri to sew costumes.

“Carnival Calabar is itself, a strategy to attract tourists to other parts of Calabar and Cross River State like the Marina Resort, the Obudu Ranch and the spectacular waterfalls in the state. They’re all waiting for investors.
“The challenges we have today are opportunities for the private sector; transportation, tour guiding, destination management, more hotels. Government cannot continue building new hotels. These are opportunities for the private sector, for growth and sustainability.We want the carnival to be 100 per cent private sector driven by 2020,” Onah revealed.