Rum Festival returns for vaccinated persons only; seen as model for future events

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By Kurt Campbell

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Just weeks before Guyana recorded its first COVID-19 case and death in March 2020, thousands attended the country’s first “Rum Fest” in February.

The event secured the support of the government and there were plans to make it a calendar affair for the local entertainment industry.

Entertainment, however, would be one of the businesses that would suffer big losses because of the restrictions imposed as a consequence of the pandemic; the Mashramani season in 2020 would be the last time that authorities approved the hosting of major fetes, until now.

Closed for more than a year with conditional reopening allowed, Guyana will this weekend witness the return of those fetes we all enjoyed, stamped with the approval of the COVID-19 Task Force and guaranteeing the health and safety of patrons.

No more dancing from your living rooms and entertaining friends and families virtually. This weekend’s affair will be a test and possibly a model for how those major in-person experiences we once enjoyed can be run off in Guyana without the worry of health safety.

Entrepreneur and organiser of Guyana Rum Fest Yonnick David

Although the numbers for the brunch aspect of the festival has been significantly reduced and stacked against an increase in investment needed to host the event, entrepreneur and organiser of Guyana Rum Fest Yonnick David is excited about the event. It promotes Guyana’s rum products and displays the country’s rich culture while telling the heroic story of sugar cane production here.

With a virtual aspect of the festival successfully completed Thursday evening, the festival culminates on Sunday with the ultimate brunch experience styled as an all-white secret garden brunch.

David said although he had to put his plans for expanding the festival on hold, there were advantages of producing the content and placing it on the internet for patrons. That saw an increase in the number of persons participating.

However, for the in-person experience on Sunday, that number has been reduced tremendously and will see below 20 per cent of the people usually allowed at the venue there.

Only vaccinated persons are allowed and masks are mandatory. Each table that sits just six persons will be

Layout for in-person brunch event.

declared mask free zones but persons are required to wear their masks at all other times during the event.

But the requirements for securing the COVID Task Force’s approval was not limited to capacity control and mask wearing, the organisers also had to ensure they found an outdoor venue and submit their seating plan in advance.

David said the team also had to develop a data gathering system that would require the contact, bio data information and vaccination records of those persons attending. That will allow for proper contact tracing should there be an incident.

“There are a number of protocols in place to ensure the safety of everyone,” David assured while talking up the exclusive experience of the event.

He said the discussions on safety this year was totally different, shifting from security only, as health was of major concern.

“It has been a serious learning curve in preparation for the brunch and back in June this year it was the only promoted vaccinated-only event. I think it sets the trend for what will happen until we get COVID under control.

“People in the entertainment industry will have to put these things in place if they really want to stay afloat. The entertainment industry has been quiet for more than a year and that’s lost revenue and loss of jobs but in order to open up back we will have to take these precautions,” David opined.

He said although there was a lot of back and forth between the event team and the authorities the model developed will be one that can be used in the future.

David lamented that while the in-person experience will not be the same as 2020 with a taming of the social nature of the event.

“It’s a start!”

“As event planners, we now have the challenge to put together events that are safe and still entertaining,” he added.

Some 30 persons from abroad are expected to travel to Guyana for the event and David has assured that his plans for expansion and replicating the event in other parts of the world are still on the cards.

Until then, this model for vaccinated events will have to be used.

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