Remember when the Sanderilla Thomas Bungalow at Rothschild Francis “Market” Square collapsed and Food Fair had to move to Emancipation Garden?
At first, people grumbled and complained. “It’s not tradition,” they said. “We’ve always done it in Market Square.” After we had Food Fair at the new location, people were excited. “That was great,” they said. “Far better than Market Square … more room.” We never looked back.
Let’s explore what would happen if we moved Carnival Village out of the Fort Christian parking lot to a new location. Could it also be better? What if Carnival got better and we could have the Carnival spirit all year round?
We could. What we need is to implement a permanent Carnival venue.
Every year we displace all the cars from the Fort Christian parking lot, assemble a stage, bring in the rides, and hold a Carnival Village for a few evenings. One of my friends builds a new booth every year. He spends about $10,000 so he can sell food and earn about $20,000. Spend $10,000. Earn $10,000. From a business standpoint, that’s OK, not great.
Our current Carnival Village involves a lot of setting up and knocking down. It’s all temporary; done on the fly, quick and shabby. Our Village looks like it was thrown up overnight. Lots of love and great art, but shabby.
What if we had a permanent Carnival Village? What if we had a couple of acres with a concrete stage with a steel structure roof, and lighting and sound systems built into the storm-proof structures. Add an open plaza and permanent booths around the perimeter, and you could hold a concert any time. It would always be there, ready to use.
A lot of places with mature festivals have permanent facilities. Most of the states have permanent sites for their fairs. They have villages made for the ages: concrete and steel. By making a one-time investment, the place is always ready to party.
Imagine concrete booths, with doors and windows, sinks with running water and drains to real sewers, built-in lighting, refrigeration and storage. The central courtyard could be brick-paved, with some lawn, concrete benches, a strong fence, ticket booths, a security building — even a first-aid station and real bathrooms. It would be a turnkey party place. Any band could set up any time and hold a concert. Concerts could have food vendors and shops ready to go. It could even have a parking lot.
Where could such a facility be? There was a charrette about the redesign of Sub Base on St. Thomas. Officials were asking what to do with the tawdry wasteland of empty lots, abandoned and storm-damaged buildings, and a utility pole storage area directly opposite the Austin “Babe” Monsanto Marine Terminal and shopping center.
What is there is ugly. What could be there is a permanent Carnival site ringed with shops. There is nothing of significant value there and the space is 2.3 acres, while the Fort Christian parking lot is only 2.1 acres. The new space would be larger — plus there is parking at Crown Bay Center, too.
A variety of events could use the permanent Carnival Village; the Bordeaux Agricultural and Cultural Fair, the university’s Afternoon on the Green, International Capital & Management’s jazz concerts, the Public Works Department’s block parties, and other events. Music and vendors could be there for the cruise ship visitors.
Whenever we have concerts at other locations there is a lot of effort to set up a stage, lighting, sound and security fencing. Any of those events could move right into our permanent Village. Entrepreneurs could develop musical events, flip the switch and be ready to go.
If you build the venue, events will come. Let the party begin.
— Alex Randall V lives on Water Island.