Great Bay:--- The 7th edition of the Boardwalk Mas has been rescheduled from May to December, said Regina LaBega, head of the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau (STB).
"The processing of funds and additional paperwork for the Boardwalk Mas have not been completed in time for us to stage the festival at the usual mid-May date," said LaBega.
"It's sad that we have to reschedule the Boardwalk Mas because of bureaucratic changes that came with the territory's adjustment; bureaucratic changes that the department was not clearly made aware of ahead of time, and in a sufficient way," said LaBega.
The annual family-oriented festival celebrates St. Martin's festive and traditional culture with a colorful afternoon parade on the Great Bay Beach promenade. Marching bands, masqueraders, groups in traditional dress, individual artists, and carnival royals are featured prominently.
The mas' is capped off with an evening concert of music, song, comedy, theater, and dance at the Wathey Square on Frontstreet. The historic Court House serves as the stage backdrop.
STB sponsors the Boardwalk Mas as a heritage event originating from the Tourism Master Plan (TourMap). "We have seen the Boardwalk Mas attendance grow beyond our expectations, from the hundreds of spectators in 2005, when it started, to some 3,000 people last year," said LaBega.
STB also promotes the festival as a genuine St. Martin tourism experience for the financially low-performing off-season. "The Boardwalk Mas is a people's festival that our visitors have started to look forward to in very promising numbers. For all of this I apologize especially to the St. Martin people," said LaBega.
There is a 2007 precedence for moving the mas' to December, when in fact the spectator audience first climbed over 2,000 people, said LaBega. "We should not lose the beautiful momentum of this event by skipping a year, and that is why we are looking to December," said the tourism director.
STB is still looking into the details to avoid a future postponement for the same bureaucratic reasons "that prevent funding from being released in a more timely manner," said LaBega. This week she received a rush of media calls about the festival.
Parade manager Urmain Dormoy has also received an unprecedented number of inquiries about the Boardwalk Mas. "This is the first year that I received so many calls from people who wanted to travel to St. Martin or bring in small tours in time to see the Boardwalk Mas for their vacation. People were calling since January," said Dormoy.
"By the end of February more groups and schools from the island called me to participate than in previous years. By the end of March I was hoping that all of the paper work would be done to have the Boardwalk Mas on May 14," said Dormoy.
The parade manager has been meeting with HNP since January, planning the festival. The Boardwalk Mas is coordinated for STB by Offshore Editing Services, a division of HNP.
Last year over 40 registered groups and individual artists participated in the festival, "and restaurants did brisk business" on the promenade, said LaBega. She reiterated that, "more importantly, St. Martin people came out to make it a memorable family outing with their children."
"The public will be informed about the plans for the Boardwalk Mas in December 2011, as soon as this final stage of paper work is cleared up," said LaBega.