The lack of financial support might have been something of a challenge for the Union Island Conch Festival producers. But in no way could this permanently hinder the Union Island Tourist Board from executing its highly anticipated Conch Festival last weekend.
Staton Gomes, Board Chairman, is confident given the experience this year that the “lack of cash sponsorship” endured for the inaugural production “would correct itself for next year because a lot of business are hyped now to get on board.” Gomes emphasized, “the Union Island businesses really came out and supported in kind contributions like hotels gave us rooms and persons made donations to the prizes and stuff like that.” Which helped immensely.
Those prizes were awarded to Conch Festival winners as they bossed feats of conch blowing, conch chopping, conch culinary skills and even conch harvesting to name several.
In the winners circle were the Anchorage Yacht Club for the Best Overall Conch Dish and Best Conch Curry, Dorrette’s Catering snagged conch trophies for having the Best Conch Water and Best Specialty Conch (a conch kebabs/conch chowmein collab), Elliot Lewis as Champion Conch Blower and Leon Edwards as Champion chopper, chooker and cleaner in the Conch Marathon.
The Week’s Heaviest Catch was hauled in by Andrew Douglas with Alvin Thomas collecting the Least Catch of the Week conch trophy for his efforts. Fortunes changed at Saturday’s festivities as Alvin Thomas bagged the conch trophy for the Heaviest Catch of the Day while Elliot Lewis had to settle for the Day’s Least Catch title.
Also joining winners row was Karlish Alexander who took home the Festival centerpiece when she won Saturday’s grand raffle – a conch shell cake that was concocted by mainland-based baker Keith Williams. Undoubtedly, it stole the spotlight given the realism captured in its design.
“I think this was the biggest surprise to me. They showed me what looked like a conch shell in a box and I was wondering to myself why they have this in a box? Is this a special conch? Is this like the biggest conch they ever caught down here? And to my surprise it was a cake! And the colour and everything like that you would never be able to look at it at first glance and say that’s a cake,” culinary conch competition judge Luta told ANN in his capacity as social media’s official Food Police.
“The ingredients were just right, the dish was very tasty and the taste of the chowmien did not overpower the flavor of the conch. The conch was soft, had good texture and cooked to perfection with seasoning that was just right to the taste buds,” Luta said of Dorette’s Catering’s winning Specialty Conch.
The Crowd Motivator headlined the second full day of conch love at the Union Island Tourist Board’s ‘Conch On The Beach’ fete – held at Sparrow’s Beach Club. He was full of praise for the Festival and its conceptualizers. “It was a really good Festival and I think the Festival is going to grow…. I would like Vincentians to put the Festival on their calendar. Let us do some local travelling, let us become local tourists and explore the Grenadines and put Union Island Conch Festival as a must attend for next year. Big up to Stanton, Honorable Lesroy and the guys from the Tourist Board in Union Island. Guys, job well done!” Luta said.
All the targets set out by the Board, namely: to stimulate the economy, to foster a greater appreciation for the conch industry and to have an additional event between January and Easterval in April; were satisfied, Staton Gomes said. “I believe all the targets were met hence me declaring the Festival a success because … you’re now hearing stories where taxi drivers made a lot of money over the weekend, vendors who we invited to come and cook and sell made a lot of money….
“A lot of hotels were filled. One hotel was completely booked out. I would say the hotel room occupancy raised from maybe about 35% to 65 – 70% occupancy. So we had a circulation of money which was one of the targets.
“One of the other targets was to have a greater appreciation of the conch and conch dishes. So we saw the restaurants came out and created new conch dishes, we saw persons with conch craft… and we had the Fisheries Department with their educational booth….
“May is the peak tourist season so the idea was to have an event between January and Easter that could be of interest to tourist so at least now we have a new event on the calendar, which is the Union Island Conch Festival.”
Conch Festival 2020 was powered, in part, by corporate SVG with donations from companies like Union Island Seafood, Digicel, Corea’s Distributors, GEMSTAR Shipping, Bequia Express Company, Sparrow’s Beach Club, Rasta Medz Lighting, Facey Trading, the Tobago Cays Marine Park, and Teachers’ Cooperative Credit Union to name several.