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Crop Over is to undergo an overhaul, with cost-cutting measures and improvements to benefit artistes and interest groups involved in the nation’s biggest arts and cultural festival.

Speaking at a reception for festival sponsors, recently appointed chief executive of the National Cultural Foundation (NCF), Carol Roberts-Reifer, revealed that the three-month festival was in for major changes.

The Pic-O-De-Crop competition, the Party Monarch/Sweet Soca Monarch and the Junior Monarch competitions as well as the weekend of pan are all in line for sweeping changes, she indicated.

Citing poor attendance, the NCF has scrapped the semifinal phase of the Pic-O-De-Crop calypso competition, Roberts-Reifer disclosed.

Calypsonians are to be selected solely by their performance on judging night at the tents.

The finals, which will be held on Friday, August 2 at Kensington Oval will include 18 finalists.

In another dramatic announcement, she said that the contestants will only sing one song, but will have the opportunity to change their choice for finals night.

Roberts-Reifer said: “If you want to change your song when you get to the finals and sing the second song that you had in the tent, you can do that… If you wanted to bring a brand new song . . . you can do that. You decide the songs you are going to be judged with.”

The NCF boss said that since 2017, the numbers of attendees at the Pic-O-De-Crop contest have been extremely disappointing, with last year’s finals drawing less than 4,000 patrons and fewer than 900 going to the semifinals.

The winner of the Pic-O-De-Crop competition can also choose if to keep his 2019 Nissan X-Trail SUV sponsored by McEnearney Quality Inc (MQI) or receive $100,000 in cash.

She said the goal was to make “this competition exciting for the calypsonians, for the sponsors and the patrons.”

But one of the most jaw-dropping disclosures for Soca and party music fans was the dropping of the Soca Royale Party Monarch competition and Sweet Soca competition.

Sweet soca and party monarch artistes are to vie for the title of king or queen in a new Soca Monarch competition, Roberts-Reifer said.

The sweet soca and party monarch semi-finals which were held on the same night as the International Bashment Soca competition has been rebranded the Soca Royale Semi-Finals, to be held on July 5 at Kensington Oval.

Roberts-Reifer declared that both genres of up-tempo music will be battling it out for the coveted prize of “best soca song of the year”.

With the diverse genres, there is to be no restriction on the beats per minute (BPM) tempo, she added.

After nearly a decade at Bushy Park, St Philip, the competition will also have a new place to call home – the National Botanical Gardens at Waterford, across the road from the National Stadium.

The NCF CEO continued: “For years we have been hearing issues with the BPM, issues with the quality of one set or songs and why don’t we go back to one competition. Again we looked at the numbers and we thought you know what let us take this leap of faith and go back to one competition.”

She also revealed that the winner of the Soca Monarch competition will receive a Mazda BT-50 pickup truck from MQI.

Also on the list of major changes is the revamping of the Junior Monarch competition. The competition is to be coordinated by the nation’s primary and secondary schools, she said.

She disclosed that it will be an individual and school effort with the calypsonians and the schools winning prizes. Past monarchs are also to mentor their alumni.

Roberts-Reifer stated that the change was driven by the large numbers of children who were interested in music but unable to gauge their abilities.

“In schools across the country there are children sitting down every day who like music but they are being forced to excel academically,” she indicated.

The NCF CEO also declared that the concept of the Mega Cavalcades is to be revisited. The all-day family fun event has been named Bajarama and is to be held at six different venues across the island.

The weekend of pan has been extended for three days with a Pan Yard Lime on July 12, Fusion (formerly Pan Fusion) on July 13 and Pan Pun De Sand on July 14.

For the first time, Pan Pun De Sand is to be moved to Pirates Cove hotel with an entrance fee of $20 for adults.

The layout for Bridgetown Market is also to be reconfigured, according to the NCF chief.

In a speech, Minister of Information, Broadcasting and Public Affairs, Senator Lucille Moe told the gathering of sponsors that the changes to the Crop Over Festival were crucial owing to intense competition from other carnivals in the region.

She added that Barbados was being pressured to be innovative in its product as the economy was significantly boosted by the festival.

Senator Moe said: “The Crop Over Festival is the largest showcase of the best of Barbados. It is the collaboration of many ideas and many genres of culture and it is to the economic good of this country. Every single sector of Barbados society is involved in the Crop Over Festival… it really does bring everybody together.”

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