Still Partying
Utila Carnival Takes Place… But Barely

August 1st, 2010
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private]

The 'Los Borrachos' float participants throw beads onto spectators

The 'Los Borrachos' float participants throw beads onto spectators

The Utilan streak of annual Carnivals that began in 1999 was about to be broken. Just a few weeks before the scheduled July 19-25 event, the Utila Municipality disclosed that it had no funds to organize the Carnival. “Cabildo canceled it, explaining that they had no money,” said Patrick Flynn, board member of the 2010 Carnival committee. “It was like they were taking one-third of the island’s income away from it.” A group of local business people, many part of the island’s Tourism Committee, acted quickly and approached the Utila Municipality about taking over the organizing of the island’s Carnival.

“We as business people felt obliged to do this to keep it going,” said Victor Lobo, president of the island’s Tourism Committee, who took over organization of the Carnival on a last moment’s notice. Utila was hit hard by the Honduran economic slump and the prospect of losing yet more business became an all-to-real possibility.

The Utila Carnival has been an annual event since 1999, coinciding with the Sun Jam festival. The Sun Jam festival takes place a week after the Utila Carnival and this year is planned to take place back at Water Cay on July 31.

According to the Utila Tourism Committee, around 2,000-3,000 people showed up to see the 2010 Carnival. Utila hotels filled with backpackers: international, mainlanders and Roatan visitors. In the end, the Carnival week provided a valuable boost to the vulnerable island economy.

According to Lobo, acting president of the Carnival Committee, the cost of the carnival was around 150,000-200,000 Lps. and at least part of these costs should be recuperated from the drink and concession sales at the Carnival. The revenue has not been counted as of yet.

The highlight of the Carnival was the Saturday parade. The float of “Los Borrachos,” or the drunkards, made its annual appearance and dominated the parade with music and bead throwing. There were the Cerveceria and Tigo floats, and BICA Utila came up with the most creative float and most active float crew.

Invited bands from La Ceiba included the Garifuna dancers and singer Carlos Gerrino who entertained the crowds of locals and visitors. The Carnival Queen was Junie Keller, the first “elected queen,” on an island that was used to “appointing” their royalty. Judges chose Junile from amongst seven candidates.

While it proved the most improvised carnival to date, it did happen and the eleven-year-old Utila carnival tradition lives on for another year. [/private]

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