The Sunday Mail
On December 29, the usually quiet resort town of Victoria Falls burst into life as people started trickling in for the Zambezi Vic Falls Carnival.
By noon on the day, congestion on the streets and crowded resort receptions was the new order in town. These scenes have become the norm every year, as thousands of visitors from various parts of the world come together for the biggest New Year’s party on the continent.
While the first day of the event usually sets the tone for the carnival, this time around it was not the case. Despite being oversubscribed, the famous ‘‘Train” and “Bush Party” just failed to live up to its billing.
The train ride was a blast, but the DJs at the bush party failed to keep up the momentum. The mood was further dampened by logistical hiccups.
Those serving beverages mainly prioritised patrons paying in foreign currency or using Visa cards, which prejudiced those who wanted to transact using local bank debit cards.
During the peak period, when the final train dropped off its passengers, the queues for local card holders at the top-up tent became longer and service was slow to the extent that one could spend as much as 30 minutes before being served.
To add to that, beer prices were ridiculously high as $100 in local currency could barely buy two six-packs of Zambezi Lager.
As opposed to previous editions where people usually wait for the third and final train going back to town, this time it was a scramble to hop on the second one as many wanted to go and redeem their night at various spots in town.
The carnival was, however, brought back to life on the second day at the Electric Safari Concert, which was held at the Victoria Falls Farm School.
With a solid line-up boasting of Freshlyground, Lady Zamar and Black Motion, it was no surprise that the numbers of people who came through were also high.
It seemed like the organisers had taken heed of complaints from attendees as they did not just adjust their prices, but also improved their service both at the top-up area and the bar. While the stage was warmed up by Playlist, Amy and The Calamaties, China and Hazel Mac, the heat was turned up when Freshlyground came on stage.
By the time Lady Zamar was introduced at around 10pm, the crowd had already been whipped into a frenzy. But she wasn’t fazed. Armed with a string of sing-along hits, she managed to keep the ball rolling. The much anticipated act of the night, Black Motion, came right after Lady Zamar’s set and the partying got really wild and the “Imali” hit-makers were taking no prisoners on the night.
Their high level of energy on stage, combined with the crowd’s response to the jams they were dropping, created an exuberant atmosphere.
DJ Hyena was tasked with shutting down the party and he managed to do it in style as he managed to keep the crowd dancing right up to the last song he played.
New Year’s Eve, the day that everyone had been waiting for, arrived and indeed managed to deliver the goods as has become the norm.
As Half N Half and So Kindly kicked off proceedings, it was Mokoomba which came on after and proved why they are rated highly on the global stage.
Their stellar performance left many fans wondering why they had not been given a prime slot as they got to play while people were still trickling in.
Then came Flying Bantu, which failed to surpass the bar that was set by Mokoomba, with the momentum being reignited by the group that took to the stage right after.
BCUC might have easily stolen the show with a unique set that left many begging for more after they left the stage.
Ammara Brown came right after and while her set was full of energy, the pace that had been set the group that had warmed the stage for her proved a daunting task to emulate.
Just a few minutes before midnight, the whole venue exploded when Prince Kaybee went behind the decks, playing a few songs before leading the crowd into the countdown.
The DJ picked up the tempo just seconds into the New Year, dropping hit after hit with the tunes being fused with mesmeric sound effects. Jason Le Roux, The Lazurasman and Bhana kept the music playing way into the wee hours of the first day of 2019.
Speaking to The Sunday Mail Society, one of the organisers, Wayne Boardman, said this year’s edition had been amazing in every aspect.
“This was definitely the largest crowd we have ever had and while we still need to finalise the numbers, I believe we had around 6500 on New Year’s Eve, a little less than that on the 30th and a sell-out crowd for the train party on the 29th,” said Boardman.
In recent years, the number of locals attending the event has increased significantly with the organisers highlighting that they now account for close to 50 percent of attendees.
“Zimbabwe now makes up around 50 percent of people who attend and while people from the entire region the rest of the world make up significant numbers. I think our biggest influx is from Botswana.”
He also added that they had issues with the pricing of food and beverages at the event, something that they tried to rectify later on.
“It was a huge challenge for us to get the pricing right this year with the change in economy in Zimbabwe but on gauging the response from the Zimbabwean festival goers after the train party and working with Zambezi Lager we managed to drop the cost of beer.
“One must remember, however, in a festival situation anywhere in the world, the cost of serving alcohol to the public is high due to infrastructure, staffing, money control systems and so on.
“On working out the final cost of a beer, we managed to sell beer for the same price as a soft drink, and in so doing making it the cheapest line item at the bar, which is generally unheard of.”
There are many visitors who have already highlighted that they want to come back, with some even booking accommodation in anticipation of the next event which organisers have guaranteed will take place.
“We are 100 percent committed to Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls to ensure that the carnival takes place each year.
“It was really an amazing feeling watching the New Year’s countdown. The energy was unbelievable. We truly have what we believe is an international standard festival in Africa and we will be looking to make the 2019 edition of Zambezi Lager Vic Falls carnival bigger and better.”