Scheduled for next weekend, the São João Festival promises to continue to bring the same traditional flavors, sounds, fun, and liveliness to the streets of the St. Lazarus neighborhood in central Macau that it has in previous editions.
“It will be, as always, a street party for all the communities,” said one of the organizers, Miguel de Senna Fernandes, president of the Macanese Association, at a press conference held yesterday by the Festival’s organizing committee.
Senna Fernandes noted that the event has been growing over the years and expressed hopes that this year would be no exception.
In the 13th edition of the Festival, which this year will give new life to St. Lazarus streets on June 22 and 23, the event is set to grow with the number of stalls increasing to 45 in addition to more local groups and added stage performances, Senna Fernandes advised.
For the president of the Macanese Association, the important thing is that “the Festival has been growing roots and has already started to appear in several places and be included in the tourism-related events calendar,” he noted, adding his appreciation for the extensive support from the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO).
In the president’s words, the Festival has now become a “habit, which we aim to turn into a real tradition.”
The president of the “Casa de Portugal em Macau” (Portuguese House) Association, Amélia António also highlighted the growth of the event in the number of participants and visitors, explaining that one of the key goals of the event is to promote ‘Made in Macau’ products, namely handicrafts.
“We will definitely continue to support handicrafts but genuine ones, made by people in Macau and not other products brought in or bought elsewhere to sell at the Festival.”
António explained that the organizing committee has received many requests to participate in the Festival, and it has been able to accommodate all of those who want to join “in the spirit of the event,” but have refused all the requests that, by the kind of activity or products intended for display, diverge from its core values.
“The same applies to performances. We are happy to have new acts but we need to acquaint them with what the Festival is about. It’s a street party and the happiness and spirit of a street party must be the main focus also in terms of musical style and general mood,” she said, adding that the organizers had received several requests for product displays and promotions which, she said, “are more suitable for a product fair and not a street festival,” explaining why they were rejected.
“This is not a fair, and product promotion is not in the spirit of the Festival which is made for people looking to try that snack and that special thing that we go especially to this event to buy [because it cannot be found elsewhere].”
GROWING COSTS DEMAND LARGER BUDGET
Questioned about the budget for this year’s event, the presenters said the budget should be around MOP500,000.
Costs have been growing over the years, noted António, due to the increase in the price for services provided by the companies that manage logistics and equipment for the festival.
From that budget, the bigger slice is covered by the MGTO with the remaining part shared among the several associations that organize the event, and the money coming from each association’s yearly budget.
NOISE IS AN ISSUE
Taking into account a recent report published by the MGTO, which noted several difficulties in holding night tourism activities in Macau, the organizers were questioned about their experience with noise.
Senna Fernandes replied, “I can say that the “Noise law” [restriction] has been a problem on several occasions,” noting that sometimes the law is enforced “blindly” and that this can have negative consequences.
“We are going to continue to turn off the music at 10 p.m. as a standard procedure in order to meet legal provisions but it’s a fact that there are other events and other dates on which exceptions were made,” she said without enumerating the periods such as the Lunar New Year in which the burning of fireworks and other activities is allowed beyond the normal hours of quiet.
“We have already had problems before [due to a noise complaint] but we will try not to [have it again],” Senna Fernandes added.
BRINGING BACK PROCESSION UNLIKELY
Questioned by the media about the possibility of the festival reviving the former São João procession, historically held in Macau on this day, Senna Fernandes said that it “would be a good idea but it’s not dependent on the organizing committee.”
“For the time being, we are not working on this. It involves other institutions, such as the Dioceses, and resources. At this moment we want to firmly support the Festival [as it is now] and it’s importance. If [in the future] we have the right circumstances to bring back the [more] religious part, we will definitely consider it.”
BEST MOMENTS ON FILM
One of the institutions that forms part of the event’s organizing committee, the International Institute of Macau (IIM), will again be hosting a video contest about the best moments of the Festival.
The contest, which will run during the two-day event, is open to all but primarily targets younger generations, with the purpose of putting their creativity to the task of portraying the best moments of the 2019 Festival in a video recording of less than two minutes in length.
The participants can use any form of video recording, including mobile phones and video equipment, and should upload the videos to a Facebook page created by the IIM for the purpose (MacauSaintJohnFestival).
The deadline to submit videos is 5 p.m. on June 23 and the winners will be announced at 7 p.m. the same day.