(CNS): Changes over the last two years to the Pirates Week Festival are due to a lack of funding and organisers are looking for the best way to make what little ‘treasure’ there is go further while maintaining the concept of the Heritage Days. But without a major sponsor for the district days, Pirates Week Executive Director Melanie McField explained that her team has to do what it can to keep the traditional events going with very little cash.
Over the years, major local sponsors have pulled out, and while government continues to allocate about the same funding each year for the festival, the lack of private sector backing for the Heritage Days makes it difficult to keep them going in the condensed festival.
Speaking to CNS, McField said that the committees that organise the Heritage Days wanted to return to the tradition of holding events in each district this year, after the experiment last year to condense this into one event on a single day failed to garner support.
But she said that if the Heritage Days were held after the Pirates Landing event on Saturday, which is now followed by the mock trial on Sunday, there was concern that most of the visitors who came purely for the festival would then leave and there would have been few left to support them.
Keeping the Heritage Days alive meant running them before the Pirates Landing event this weekend because this gives the district committees a chance to attract bigger crowds. This is a problem that has emerged since Pirates Week was reduced from a ten-day festival on Grand Cayman spanning two weekends.
McField said the options were limited, but a decision was made to hold the Heritage Days before the Pirate antics begin on Friday. She hopes that visitors who are coming for the Pirates Festival this coming weekend will have arrived in time to visit the districts and enjoy the Heritage Days before the bulk of the festival events in George Town.
She said the Pirates Week office would like to do much more for the Heritage Days and support the district committees but it is all about money and with so little to go around, changes have had to be made.
McField said that there is much criticism when the festival changes to fit the budget but little genuine help coming from those critics to support the Heritage Days.
“We really do need a major sponsor to help the district committees with the Heritage Days,” she said. The changes, she noted, have nothing to do with past controversies about separating the Heritage Days, which focus on Cayman culture and traditions, from Pirates Week; the festival remains a tourism attraction and “pirates” is the key word for visitors.
Combining the festivities over two weeks across all three islands allows for more participation in all the festivities, she said.
“It lessens the work load on the district committees,” she said. “It’s also easier to package as a festival vacation for hotels and flights, ultimately attracting more tourists by driving more sales through packaged travel via travel agents,” she added, pointing out that the whole point of the festival to begin with is to boost visitor numbers.
Another change this year, unrelated to the official organisers of the festival, is that The Jolly Roger pirate ship will be out of action during its most important week of the year. The tour boat ran aground last month, for the second time this storm season, during bad weather as Hurricane Michael passed by, and the vessel remains in dry dock under repair.
The Pirates Week Festival began in Cayman Brac on Friday and will finish on 16 November in Little Cayman. The Heritage Days also began on Friday in East End and they continue through this week, ending in George Town on Thursday ahead of the kick-off party.
On Friday the festival formally opens with the fireworks display, street dance and food festival. Events continue with the Pirates Landing on Saturday, all the way through the holiday weekend until the pirates get their comeuppance on Monday.