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Reggae Sumfest Spices Up The Big Apple

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Final negotiations are being conducted for Keisha Cole, Akon, and Chris Brown to perform at Reggae Sumfest 2008.  This was a surprise announcement by Johnny Gourzong, Executive Director of Summerfest Productions on Wednesday June 4, at the launch of the annual summer festival held, at the Negril Village Restaurant and Lounge in Manhattan, New York. The venue was abuzz with excitement as the full-house crowd gathered to get first-hand information on this year’s festival. Members of the press were out in their numbers as were various sponsors and well wishers of the event.

Minister of Tourism, the Hon. Edmund Bartlett, guest speaker, gave a heartwarming address in which he boasted of the incredible world record breaking run of Usain Bolt which he compared with Reggae Sumfest as “Champions”, showing the strength and unsurpassed talent which is a part of the Brand Jamaica experience.  He observed that Reggae Sumfest not only brought tourists to the island for the festival, but created the opportunity for them to spend longer vacations, thus having the time to experience more of the island and our people.  “Reggae Sumfest”, he remarked, “not only exports reggae music but the total Jamaican Experience”.

Robert Russell, Chairman of Summerfest Productions, spoke on the festival’s impact on the Jamaican economy.  He estimated that over 6, 000 persons will attend the festival this year, who would spend on average US$1,500, translating to over six billion Jamaican dollars.  He mentioned that all hotels and airline seats are full for the festival and that craft vendors, small food vendors, restaurants and various operators of transportation all benefitted from the injection of cash which resulted from the festival.  As “as matter of fact “, he said, “many persons use the funds gained from the festival to send children back to school”.  When asked about the profits from the festival, Mr. Russell advised that the over US$2million cost of the festival, absorbed all the revenue earned, as in trying to keep the price of the tickets affordable, they were restricted in terms of what the gate revenues could bring in.  He did state however that the festival had plans underway to contribute to the development of young musicians by helping to provide musical instruments and training, something which he said was unfortunately in very short supply in Jamaica, in recent times.

Another highlight of the programme was the presentation of the two awards won by Reggae Sumfest at this year’s International and World Music Awards ( IRAWMA); Best Concert and Best Promoter of the year

The programme which lasted approximately an hour featured several presentations which started with a New York welcome by the Jamaica Counsel General to New York, Mrs. Genieve Brown Metzer and Mr. Guillemo Linares, the Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs of New York.  Johnny  Gourzong, Executive Director for the festival gave a general outline of plans for this year, and thrilled the audience with his surprise announcement of the international artistes.   He also announced the introduction of online ticketing, a first for the festival. Representatives from major sponsors, Air Jamaica, The Jamaica Tourist Board, VP Records, Jamrock Magazine, and Kariblink Digital all, re-affirmed, their support of the festival.

The guest list for the function was impressive including, (apart from those mentioned before), Ms. Carole Guntley, Director General of the Ministry of Tourism; Mr. Basil Smith, Director Tourism; Mr. David Shields, Deputy Director Tourism Marketing; Mr. Donnie Dawson, Deputy Director Tourism Sales; Mr. Campbell Rudder, Regional Manager, Air Jamaica; Chris and Randy Chin of VP Records; David Annakie of Jamrock Magazine; Ray Gouldbourne of BET.  The press list was also notable including representatives from Billboard Magazine, Bloomberg Radio, Essence Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, New York Beacon,  Travel & Leisure, Vibe Magazine, Vogue Magazine, Whats Up TV,  and a host of others.

Formalities ended at approximately 9:30 pm when the guests then went back to networking, socializing, drinking and eating, all in all having an excellent time.

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