Celebrating a Community of Communities
Staff Article'Octofest' was first started in the year 2000. While the idea was there before, the whole conceptualization really came in the year 2000. I am the one who conceived the idea and I shared it with my good friend, Mr. Solomon Aguilera. He was here with us for the 2005 'Octofest' but he left just after the event. He is in the United States now. When I spoke to Mr. Aguilera about the idea (he being a community oriented person like myself), we both decided that we were going to run with the idea. When we presented the idea to the other guys, they agreed to go with it. There was no question as to how it was going to be funded, how it was going to be implemented or even what the outcome would be like. There wasn't any negative response about having this event. The guys just felt that they could work with the idea and because all of us in the group are community oriented, the whole thing just flowed. We actually started the event without any funding. We must say thanks to the Member of Parliament, the Honourable Mr. Roger Boynes, and the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation for assisting us with the infrastructure.
Interview with David Gadar, Councillor of the District of Valencia
Recorded: December 18, 2005
Posted: December 23, 2005
For the first year of the 'Octofest' Event, the response was overwhelming. This event has grown tremendously during the five short years it has been in existence. There are a few reasons for having 'Octofest'. The most obvious one was when Mr. Solomon and I looked at the small businesses in the community and observed how people would traditionally come to us usually at Christmas time, to assist them with donations for a project in the community or to buy uniforms for a sporting event and so on. After much thought, we felt that the businesses in the community are very small and it was difficult for us to continue assisting these small groups.
We thought that we would create an event that would bring people out to do sales in order to help themselves and the community projects. We wanted to bring them out as community groups, so we brought the idea forward and the event started at the Valencia Junction. On the first night of the event, which is the Friday night, it is really geared towards the business community. They would benefit because they have supported us from the very beginning. They may not contribute financially, but definitely in kind. For instance, when we have artistes, they would provide the meals and the refreshments so that is not a cost for us. We would do it in front of an establishment, whereby the business man or woman would have benefited from the event within close proximity of their businesses.
The second night is also on The Junction. That entails having some of the cultural acts perform and that too is also geared towards the business community. The final day is geared towards the community groups. On that day, the event takes place on the recreational grounds. There you will have display booths, sporting events, novelty events; a traditional fun day where people come out. We would have food items on sale, artifacts and whatever the community can produce. We exhibit the items and we have a sort of mini expo so that the community of itself would benefit.
We are pleased to say that not many people are coming to us now because we have created the event, and we have told the community groups that the event is their own. We are promoting the event so that they can participate and benefit from it. We do all the infrastructural work and we do not charge people for coming to the event, nor do we charge people for participating in the event. The performers would come and perform and the people who provide the meals for sale. They in turn would assist us by donating some of what they sell to go as refreshments to the artistes and so on. It is a real community event, in every sense of the word.
The reason for this event being held in October is because we believe in Trinidad and Tobago, people love wild meat. At first we thought that we should keep it in the early part of October and we would advertise the sale of wild meat. We have traditional hunting in rural communities like the villages of Cumaca and Aripo. The people from these communities would come and do the sales of the wild meat lunches and so on. They benefit from this and we do not charge them. They catch their own animals from the forest and they do their own preparations. When they come to the event we provide a tent for them to sell their meals, and they keep the funding. In turn they contribute a small portion of the meals to us and we would give that to the artistes and the specially invited guests. The attraction in the beginning was the wild meat. We would advertise 'Come and Get Your First Taste of Wild Meat Lunch Meals in the District of Valencia' and that worked well for us.
I must say that one of the things that worked well for us too is the fact that we continue to use a number of the local acts from within the community. We have a lot of talented people in the community like Marvin Lewis, the Millennium Crew, Marion and Ferdinand Smith, Mr. Riggsby with his parang band and many others. We have quite a number of quality acts in the community and we give them first preference. The community appreciates that and they come out to support their own. We do have some outside acts to help augment the whole thing and it works for us. I must say, "Thank god we haven't had any incidents thus far."
This event has drawn thousands of people to it. In fact, it is so popular, that people ask us long in advance for the dates for 'Octofest'. The people like to know in advance so that they can prepare themselves for the month of October. In the month of October, we also thought that we would incorporate eight events over the three days in the whole event, to maintain the 'Octofest' theme. Then too, it is the beginning of the Christmas Season and coming to the end of the Independence and Republic Season, so you would find that we also have Military Parade for the 'Octofest'.
When the Queen Show first started, we thought that we would use the community to present the girls. I like to identify Valencia as a 'community of communities', meaning, that you have little pockets. For instance like the old Valencia Housing Estate, the KP Lands Area, New City Area, Quare Road, Cumaca and Plantation Road. While these communities are situated in close proximity of the main district of Valencia, somehow they have their own little identity. We try to ensure we maintain that each community has their own identity, while appreciating and belonging to the larger community of Valencia. That is working well for us, because we give each little community a sort of status by recognizing them as a community. We have community leaders in these communities, so it gives us a far greater working team in the truest sense of the word. The community leaders (that we try to encourage to come out of these communities) would sort of bring that community together. They in turn, when we have meetings of a particular nature (the community leaders) will come to those meetings and they report back to the community. The girls for the Queen Show come out of those areas.
This year we expanded the areas because people in the outer areas wanted to be involved. We would normally send our young people to various events to represent the District of Valencia. People said that we were too closed-in and that they wanted to be part of the event. We didn't see it as a problem, so we opened the event this year to the young ladies from Sangre Grande and Arima. With each community creating their own identity and having their own person represent them, gives the community a sense of feeling that they are up there with the wider community. We treat each area the same as the main area. There is no upscale side or downscale side community, just one level. They also participate on the day of sports at that level, community wise. We come together as communities within one community. That was how we got the girls to come forward. In fact this is the first year we thought we would have moved the event indoors. Traditionally, it used to be a free show, and was held in the Valencia Recreational Grounds. The reason we went into an enclosed area this year was because the event really skyrocketed in the sense that it is costing us a lot now. We took the advice and we listened to some of the sponsors, because they wanted to see something indoors.
The show is a very elaborate show now, and people thought that we should take it to another level. We maintain the same concept in not having the young ladies parade in anything else but evening gowns and casual wear and maybe traditional wear. We want to maintain the young ladies dressed in the most modest manner, because their parents, the neighbors, the teachers and even the churches are involved. We want to maintain and remain with this trend so that people would feel comfortable coming to the event. Whether the people are teachers, priests, parents or ordinary people on the streets, we still want to maintain a level of modesty about the whole thing. Some people may feel because they go to church, they ought not to be seen in certain events, so we try to maintain a sort of relaxed and friendly atmosphere where everybody could come and enjoy the event. The event was also designed to give Valencia its own identity in terms of a cultural event. You hear of Paramin and its Parang Event, Mount Tamana Havest in Blanchisseuse, Matelot Fisherman's Fete, Point Cumana St. Peters Day and every other community having an event of a cultural nature and it is nationalistic in the truest sense. Valencia has never had that, and we are rich, culturally and in sports. Though we are known for our talents, we were not known as a community that produces an event for the wider community.
The title of 'Octofest' is 'Destination Valencia'. The message we are sending is "Your destination in October for 'Octofest' Must be Valencia". Valencia previously was just a pass through village. People used to come through to go to the North Coast, the North East Coast or the South East Coast. They used to just pass through Valencia in their convoys and excursions and so on, but they never actually came to Valencia for anything. We decided that we need people to come here because we must be able to grow economically. The event is not just geared to create entertainment; it's also for the purpose of business. After the first year of the event, we were pleased to hear from the taxi drivers how happy they were about the taxi fares they were able to make on the day of the event. It benefits the taxi drivers, shops, bars, restaurants and other vendors. All in all, it is a social and cultural event and we would also like to recognize it as an economically viable event for the community. The idea is not to create a whine 'n' jam activity. There is a far more valuable purpose behind the whole thing, than just creating an event for people to come and be entertained.
Should anyone wish to find out more about this event, the members of Valencia Sports and Cultural Foundation are readily available to assist. All of us who have phones are in the phone book, or you can check us in the community. Ask for the members of the foundation (David Gadar, Antonio Orosco, Michael Guptar, Ronald Le Blanc, Kelvin Winters, Solomon Aguillera , Eugene St. Clair and Mr. Ragbir). The members of the Valencia Sports and Cultural Foundation all came from different backgrounds. For instance, I am a Businessman/Politician now. We have fire officers, retired police officers and one is Mr. Winters. We also have people who are farmers by profession, taxi drivers and people are in the Designing Business. Our team is actually made up of a diverse group of people who understand things from different perspectives. Maybe that is why we have a good understanding. We operate so freely with one another and events just flow…we gel so nicely.
I actually became involved in the politics in 1999. When I became involved in the politics, it wasn't because I wanted to; I got involved because I was asked. As a matter of fact, I was first asked in the early '90s, just after the coup and then again in 1996. In 1999 I was asked very aggressively (laughter). People from all walks came to me and said I should get involved. I was working with the community before that because I wanted to see the community developed. I was always involved with the young people in the community. When I was asked in 1999, I went around and mentioned it to my family, a number of people in the community and former colleagues of mine at the Public Transport Service Commission (P.T.S.C.). I worked there from 1975 to 1994. Because of the relationships I had with my former colleagues at the Public Transport Service Commission (P.T.S.C.), they encouraged me to make the move…I took the plunge in 1999.
Valencia and Octofest 2005 Album:
Valencia: Traditions of Christmas Album:
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