Saturday, July 13, 2024

The machinery behind a successful San Pedro Lobsterfest

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The 2023 San Pedro Lobster Festival was another successful event that saw thousands of islanders and tourists flocking to the Honourable Louis Sylvestre (Saca Chispas field) during its block party on July 15th. The annual festival honors the opening of the lobster season and provides a spike in the island’s economy during a period considered the starting of the low tourism season. As the popular festival nears two decades since its debut in June 2007, here is a peek into the process of organizing one of the largest events in the country that continues to grow year after year.
The lobster activities did not disappoint this year as the celebration showcased the best in lobster dishes, colorful and creative restaurant booths, and live music. The number of persons recorded attending is estimated to have surpassed 5,000 after 4,000 wristbands were distributed at the venue’s entrance. The committee behind the organization of the lobster festival is led by islander and entrepreneur Rebecca Arceo. Arceo stated that around 2006, the business community on the island started discussing the idea of an activity around the lobster season opening that would stimulate the local economy. As such, the first Lobster Festival was born, and in June of that year, San Pedranos witnessed the birth of a festivity that would become an annual extravaganza. According to Arceo, the anticipated celebration started with two to three events bringing in the lobster season following the first catch and proceeding with a block party.
Some years later, the lobster passport idea was introduced, leading to a fun two-week-long lobster crawl, culminating with the block party. With lobster-themed events at several participating businesses (restaurants, shops), passports are picked up and stamped. For every stamp, the holder gets a raffle ticket for fabulous prizes raffled at the block party. This idea proved fruitful as participating establishments enjoy a steady flow of customers when they host the crawl. At the same time, customers expressed that due to the lobster crawl, they visited places they would not have if not for this activity. “It gets you out visiting different places you would not necessarily go to if you did not have the passport,” Arceo said. Even though it is a two-week activity, Arceo said it is an opportunity for the festival to expand and reach out to different places across San Pedro, benefiting stakeholders. In contrast with the Lobsterfests held in Caye Caulker and Placencia, southern Belize, San Pedro’s is the most extended celebration.
Of importance to note is that the passport is free. The block party is free of charge as well to the public attending the event. Arceo said this enhances visitors’ experience of the island, providing them with these fun and traditional activities at no extra charge. Because getting to Belize these days can be costly, the goal is to keep the festival affordable. The Lobsterfest committee obtained donations from stakeholders such as the Belize Tourism Board, Bowen & Bowen, the San Pedro Town Council, and numerous businesses around the island.
In keeping the annual festival affordable for the businesses paying for the booths, support from stakeholders and the community is imperative. The organizers consist of a small staff and primarily volunteers. Arceo wants to make a special thanks to Coqui Alamilla, who organizes the passport and manages finances, Renita Dellaca collects thousands of dollars in prizes and donates endless hours of her time, Judith Azueta and Amanda Syme coordinate the social media and the crawl crew while Daisy Martinez, Laisha Gamez, Evianny Ancona and Kayla Ruano are recognized for attending all the events. This represents a heavy workload in organizing the activities, but Arceo said it is worth it as it benefits the island community. The organizing group led by Arceo added that the event is non-profit but San Pedro benefits from the tourist attraction. “The feedback has been excellent, with people telling us that it is the most organized, professional, and successful lobster festival to date. It’s been 16 years, and I have watched the festival grow. Every year we learn something different as the festival continues to expand and develop into something we are all very proud of,” said Arceo. She said the community’s support, cooperation, and enthusiasm have been fantastic, with everyone working together and representing San Pedro well. “The hard work and dedication of the San Pedro business community make San Pedro Lobster Fest the success it is,” Arceo said.
Until 2019, the festival took place at the central park by the beach. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, it was relocated to the Saca Chispas field. Arceo said the committee had been considering this relocation long before the pandemic. While the central park is by the beach, Saca Chispas offers a confined area with more space for booths and their services.
While the San Pedro Lobsterfest 2023 is now in the history books, Arceo said they are already working on the festival’s 17th edition for next year. They hope to announce the dates and activities for Lobsterfest 2024 by the end of August. They ask the public and stakeholders to stay tuned and follow their Facebook fan page https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100064496060169 for updates.

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