Muddy Sumfest - Organisers consider moving out of MoBay
Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
Reggae Sumfest may be forced to relocate to the Trelawny Multi-purpose Stadium if conditions at the Urban Development Corporation (UDC)-owned Catherine Hall complex in Montego Bay, St James, are not improved.
Sumfest would become the second major event forced to move from the tourism capital as a result of the absence of a suitable show venue. The first was the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival.
Catherine Hall, where the event has been staged over the past 18 years, was compared to a pigsty by patrons attending the three-night event, which ended yesterday. The grounds were pounded by heavy rains, which left it looking like a 'mud fest', causing immense discomfort for visitors, as well as locals.
"Only pigs are supposed to wallow in this type of mud," said a visitor from Florida, swearing never to return to the event after attending last Friday's International Night I. Like the Floridian tourists, locals attending the event swore against a return, having had to experience flooded car parks, mucky entrance areas and limited access to restrooms that became extremely difficult to reach.
Many of the people who attended Saturday night's show wore water boots, sneakers or plastic bags as protection.
"We are going to have to look very closely at where we go from here because we cannot take a risk like this again," stated Johnny Gourzong, Summerfest Production's executive director.
Time for change
Although the organisers of the event are merely three-day tenants, Gourzong said they were forced to fork out millions of dollars last week to place gravel and sawdust on the affected areas in order to reduce the suffering of patrons.
"We feel it is time for the Government, through the UDC, to provide some type of facility that can accommodate shows of this magnitude," said Gourzong, adding that the paving of the roads would have to be the responsibility of the landlords. "The roads have been in the same condition for 18 years, and no steps have been taken to upgrade them."
Messages left for Lenworth Tracey, UDC deputy general manager, economic develop-ment and corporate relations, were not returned.