It all started back in 2008, when my village organized a homecoming reunion that proved to be very successful. It was held during the Christmas/New Years time frame, when many relatives who had left the island for work elsewhere were back home to visit. The success of that reunion led the village to think they could expand their traditional August Monday celebration into a larger event that would draw outsiders to our village. [The picture below was taken from part-way up Mont Rouge on Monday afternoon, and gives you an idea of the beautiful setting for our festival.]
So, after our “community carnival” was finished in February, the village leaders turned their focus to planning for the village feast—or as it is known in the local kweyol dialect, the “fete.” The village council set up various committees for the different functions, and representatives from each committee (a mix of elected councilors and citizens) met every other Tuesday night from late February to June. As the date neared, the village feast committee met every Tuesday night for the final month. Throughout these months, the fete was a major topic at the regular monthly village council meetings as well. The different committees that met independently and then reported their activities to these joint meetings included entertainment, publicity (see poster below), vending, security, sports, and exhibition.Tropical Storm Erika hit. Those who helped shovel out the landslides were rewarded with shots of rum, ginger wine, etc. It made it worth shoveling all that dirt!
Between the proceeds from the admission fees, the vendor permits ($100 for a spot to set up your bar on the grounds), and other small fees, this event provides most of the revenue used by the village council for maintenance and improvements. Without it, the village council could not function adequately.
In Dominica, local governments were primarily funded through the payment of “house rates”—something akin to property taxes in the USA. It is a nominal amount based on the size of your house. However, there is no enforcement mechanism to force people to comply—it seems to be considered a voluntary donation over the years that fewer and fewer residents are bothering to pay. In West Virginia, your name is published in the newspaper if you don't pay your property taxes, and eventually your property can be auctioned off from the courthouse steps if you refuse to comply, but this process doesn't exist in Dominica. Technically, the village council could take residents to court, but that it simply not done by one neighbor to another here (or any other villages, as I've heard the problem with non-payment of house rates is widespread). So with the revenue from house rates in decline, the feast came along at an opportune time to enable the council to fill its coffers and balance their budget.