Friday, December 02, 2005

An Atypical Friday

The Goombay Festival street vendors are setting up outside the door here at the Coffee Plantation. Streets are being closed off and the vendors are putting up their canopies, food wagons are beginning to locate along Whitehead Street. The trolleys have been re-routed away from their normal stop in front of the Coffee Plantation (there's a Sno-Ball truck parked there), which is certain to affect Theo and Diane's business for the rest of the day and all day tomorrow.

It's an atypical day because of Goombay. Dotty reports from downtown that the City is busy. There are four cruise ships in port. That accounts for a lot of it. The Pirates in Paradise Festival is on-going through the weekend. That accounts for another part. Goombay will bring in some visitors. Red and I just walked Petronia St. from Duval to Emma. Over half of the seventy-five booth spaces on Petronia St., Whitehead St., and Thomas St. are being set up, but there are still spaces where no one has appeared yet.

Parking will become impossible in Bahama Village by late afternoon. Janet went out in the car early this morning, but now its parked on Thomas St. where it will remain until at least Sunday. The Festival blocks off fifty or so spaces in the Village, which means that residents will need to park further away than normal. Not a problem for us. It's why God invented bicycles.

Goombay began as a local event, with the intent of providing business opportunities to local residents while celebrating the Bahamian and Caribbean roots of many of the residents of the City, and especially Bahama Village itself. Nowadays, most of the booth space is rented to vendors from Miami and points north. There is one booth operated by Goldie's of Nassau, but the majority of the food booths and many of the non-food booths are run by, for lack of a better word, outsiders. There's a nice selection of food available, from Greek to Chinese, from sandwiches to full plate dinners, but only a little of it is authentically Bahamian or Caribbean. If every booth space was occupied, the revenue to the Coral City Elks Lodge, the organization that runs the festival, would be over $30,000. There are fixed expenses of course, not the least of which are erecting a sound stage at Petronia and Emma, hiring bands and other entertainment, renting portable toilets, police patrols and the like.

Despite the commercialization, it's actually quite a fun event. Strolling down Petronia St., meeting friends and neighbors, trying to decide on dinner and then enjoying it while walking, watching the Junkanoo bands and the stilt dancers and the choirs and the steel pan bands to perform, all contribute to an island feel that is more apparent than the rest of the year. Later tonight, the featured bands will play for street dancing until midnight.

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