Thu | Jul 25, 2024

‘Sumfest a national treasure’

People are not asking about line-up, says Russell

Published:Sunday | July 9, 2023 | 12:12 AMJanet Silvera - Senior Gleaner Writer

Downsound Entertainment CEO Joe Bogdanovich (left), executive producer of Reggae Sumfest and Robert Russell, Reggae Sumfest director.
Downsound Entertainment CEO Joe Bogdanovich (left), executive producer of Reggae Sumfest and Robert Russell, Reggae Sumfest director.
Reggae Sumfest Director Robert Russell is predicting a record number of overseas guests for Reggae  Sumfest 2023.
Reggae Sumfest Director Robert Russell is predicting a record number of overseas guests for Reggae Sumfest 2023.
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WESTERN BUREAU:

Having built itself into a national treasure, Reggae Sumfest is not about the line-up anymore, the festival is now a drawing card that attracts people from all walks of life, says a man who has been with the event for 30 years.

“People just want to come to the event; the enquiries we are getting from overseas is mostly about accommodation, they are not asking about line-up. People from all over the world are coming,” Reggae Sumfest Director Robert Russell told The Sunday Gleaner on Tuesday, while speaking of the 30th anniversary staging of the festival.

Russell said many of the calls were queries regarding Marion Hall. “People are asking what kind of show Marion is going to do? My answer is, when you come to the festival you will see, I say I am as curious as you are,” he quipped.

Reminiscing on the many years he fought with Hall, when she carried the moniker, ‘Lady Saw’, the Reggae Sumfest executive could not contain his excitement about her being booked to perform on the show.

“She’s coming to bring blessings to everybody.”

According to Russell, they are way ahead of where they were last year, in terms of the preparation of the venue. Additional parking is being created behind MegaMart, with entry from Howard Cooke Boulevard and exit point at the stadium.

The new parking lot has the capacity to accommodate 1,000 cars off the street. Parking has always been a major concern of not only the patrons and the police, but also the organisers. Russell, who spoke with conviction, explained the importance of having the lot close to the venue.

“It’s always easy to shuttle patrons to the event but when the event is over for 15 or 20,000 people to get a shuttle to go back to their cars, it’s a little difficult, but this parking lot is walking distance.”

He predicts that this year’s event will be one of the best staged in its 30 years, in terms of production, lighting and sound, owing to the new state-of-the-art equipment at their disposal.

“We have new equipment every year. What happens is the equipment gets better and better, so we can’t buy equipment any more because by next year it becomes outdated. So we have to rent. We have rented a whole set of security cameras, which will cover the entire property, new lighting, new sound,” he revealed.

VENDORS PREPARING FOR CROWD

The large number of vendors are busy preparing themselves for a bumper crowd to feed with the best curried goat, oxtail, ackee and salt fish and dumplings in the morning after the event ends.

In the meantime, Mayor of Montego Bay Councillor Leeroy Williams has declared the transformed town as ‘Sumfest City’.

In 2022, the organisers estimate that an average of close to 15 or 20,000 patrons flocked to the Catherine Hall venue per night. Currently, the venue can accommodate 22,000 people.

Russell admits that it is costing more to stage the event in 2023, but he gave credit to the sponsors who he says have come on board in a big way. Trinidad’s Caribbean Airlines made a bold move, and are title sponsors of the event.

The airline has gone as far as putting the Reggae Sumfest logo on the side of their planes.

“Sponsors are just anxious to be identified and to be a part of Sumfest because it brings a certain amount of exposure that they wouldn’t normally get,” said Russell.

Likewise, the festival’s impact is being felt in every nook and cranny in the tourism capital, with businesses such as Wrap City making reference of how many new clients they have received ordering signs, posters and banners, said Russell.

“I was having a conversation with the owner of Wrap City who said, bwoy I don’t know how to thank you for Sumfest. Every year we look forward to Sumfest, even more than we do to Christmas.”

The Sumfest founding father says everybody participates in the festival, from the top right down to the peanut man, the jerk pork man, the taxis, the hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, and kids can go back to school in September based on the income generated.

Close to $3 billion is injected into the economy of Montego Bay in one week, research has shown. “The spin-offs are amazing and everybody is ready to welcome all guests from overseas, which this year seems is going to be a record,” Russell stated.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com