Booplay performs at the 2014 Calypso Finals
Booplay performs at the 2014 Calypso Finals

Some said it was gone and it was not going to be a part of carnival this year.

But the 'Showdown Mas Camp' tent defied the odds and chugged to a start on January 13, to the delight of many Calypso fans.

And its founder, celebrated Calypso writer Pat Aaron promised that this year's tent will provide an innovative and entertaining programme, despite serious financial challenges.

He said the 'Mas Camp' tent will feature great cuisine, exhilarating performances by local and foreign artistes plus timely recognition of outstanding women for contributions to music and other areas.

Aaron added that the entire 2017 programme has been dedicated to the memory of tent stalwart, the late calypsonian Michael 'Booplé' LaFleur, who passed away last year.

Aaron noted that it was a formidable task to launch Mas Camp this year because there was no sponsorship.

However, since the tent started a few sponsors have indicated their willingness to come on board.

In a Facebook post on January 5, Aaron disclosed that Mas Camp was entering the 2017 carnival season with a $30,000 debt and consequent cash-flow limitations delayed the start of performers' practice sessions.

Aaron blamed the lack of sponsorship mainly on the weakness of Dominica's economy, but he also said many sponsors are afraid to support Mas Camp against the wishes of unnamed "powers-that-be".

"To be frank, I think most people in Dominica are scared, business people as well. Mas Camp and particularly me — my efforts and my energy are towards equality and fairness in the country…This is not pleasing to the 'powers-that-be'…"

"Business people tend to shy away from controversy that Government and political people don't take kindly to," he contended, noting that Showdown Mas Camp is considered by some Government supporters to be an 'Opposition camp'.

While Aaron deeply appreciates contributions of sponsors who indicated willingness to come on board since Mas Camp started, he said he is painfully aware that their financial assistance will not be enough to meet the tent's expenses.

Showdown Mas Camp is an expensive undertaking, he pointed out, with costs usually amounting to between $10,000 and $15,000 per night.

Nevertheless, he is determined that the show must go on.

"We are thankful most of all for the support of [recent sponsors] . . . those who are brave enough and determined enough to support us no matter what.

"It will not be enough, but we are hoping more [sponsors] will come onboard . . . we will make do with whatever we have," he said.

Aaron believes Mas Camp should be maintained because it has a vitally important function in society, which he called maintaining a "balance to the system". As such, he said he would "hate to abandon it or skip a year, or not do it".

"That is why…every year I have to dip into my pockets and my personal reserves to help, as well as some of the executives and management," he said. And he has a philosophical drive: "I think we, Mas Camp, are the underdogs, the 'society rejects', he declared.

We— particularly me — stand by what we believe and I have been … opposing wrongdoing for over 40 years . . . not just this Government … I have not changed. And I don't see myself changing now."

Aaron said these are challenging times for Mas Camp and its patrons because he believes the nation's economy has crashed and many businesses and working-class people are just struggling to survive.

Despite the trying times, Aaron urged patrons to come out in large numbers and support Mas Camp, saying they can expect a resplendent venue and inventive programmes.

This year, the entrance fee to the tent has been reduced and Aaron said the action-packed programme will be different each night, so patrons can expect top value for their hard-earned money.