Improved venue for Reggae Sumfest - Problems with rain last year force a change
Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
Reggae Sumfest organisers say steps are in place to ensure no repeat of the 'mudfest' patrons experienced last year. The festival's Catherine Hall venue, which was overwhelmed with mud as a result of heavy rainfall, spurred the organisers, Summerfest Productions, to threaten to move the annual event to the Trelawny Multi-purpose Stadium.
A year later, the tune has changed.
Sumfest will still be at Catherine Hall. Upgrading work at the venue has moved into high gear in preparation for the event, which commences with a beach party on Sunday, July 17, and ends on Saturday, July 23, in Montego Bay.
"We are ensuring a more comfortable, hospitable, user-friendly venue for all our patrons that come here, Summerfest Productions' chairman, Robert Russell, told Entertainment.
"That's what we are committed to, the test on the venue is running and it's running like a charm," he added.
Russell said the festival's original home, Catherine Hall, is still the best show venue in Montego Bay. The facility has the capacity to accommodate some 17,000-20,000 people.
In collaboration with owners, the Urban Development Commission (UDC), some $2 million is being spent to bring the venue to where the organisers need it to be, revealed the chairman.
During a recent visit by The Gleaner, workmen were busy paving the VIP area, the roads to backstage and bracelet-holder areas, as well as the restrooms.
"We are using chip and spray, a type of asphalt, which takes away any form of mud," explained Sidney Reid, director, sites and services.
"We are trying to achieve a situation where we have much more dry land, by repairing and redoing, resurfacing, remarling, raising certain areas and draining them," Reid said.
He noted that there were big improvements made to the VIP area, "Trafficking to the VIP area, backstage and the entrance coming into the park, that entire area, the roadways will be dealt with, we are now putting on river shingle."
New road to car park
In addition, Reid's team has added another 30 feet to the back of the venue and said they are stockpiling other materials, such as wood chips in case of any eventuality. Reid is also building another road leading to the car park at the back of the venue where bracelet holders had an issue last year. At the last Sumfest, bracelet holders could not access the car park because of the mud.
In the meantime, executive director of Summerfest Productions, Johnny Gourzong, said it's all systems go for the festival, which is estimated to cost some US$1.7 million to be staged this year.
The event is scheduled to be launched in New York later this month.
"We are very advanced with the three international acts that we are eyeing, two of them will be on Saturday night and one on Friday," said Gourzong.
Some of the acts already confirmed to perform at the Catherine Hall stadium, July 21-23, include Duane Stephenson, Protojé, Cherine Anderson, Tessane Chin and Tanya Stephens.
Photos by Janet Silvera