THOUSANDS of people from villages across Roviana Lagoon in Western Province witnessed the opening of the 2016 Lagoon Festival in Munda, Tuesday.
This year’s event was bigger than the one held last year in terms of organisation and attendance.
Each of the community within the lagoon came up with a float and participated in the float-parade during the opening ceremony.
This year’s theme is “Celebrating people, culture and environment”.
The floats on the opening day journeyed to the main venue from Kindu on the west side, Dunde on the eastern end, and Nusa Roviana south east.
The canoe journey was a remarkable Tomoko trip from Rarumana of some 30-strong men who arrived in Munda a day early.
But it will be a festival to be long remembered.
Roviana is surrounded by huge investment undertakings and activities that by local standard are something the lagoon dwellers are nervous about
They are frightened about their own people starting to be forgetful, the environment not properly cared for and a culture of confusion and paranoia is chipping away the very fabric of the people.
The lagoon festival therefore could be well remembered as the theme suggests.
The positive thing about the Roviana people is that they are proud of the rich culture.
And it is that line of thinking that the initial minders and planners of the festival decided one day in the not too distant past that a gathering which incorporates an integration of events highlighting tourism as a focal point because a the lagoon setting is full of touristic pull.
Throughout the week it will be a time for islanders to join in a flurry of organized events and deporting activities using the sea for it is the sea where 90 percent of time is spent by islanders.
The festival is held to also remember a Roviana man, Alex Wickham, with siblings in Australia, who introduced the Australian crawl that later became an Olympic sports.
In Roviana and during the festival there is what’s called the Aleck Wickham crawl, a 90 metre dash in the sea between Hobupeka and Labete station.
At the opening on Tuesday afternoon, corporate and political leaders praised the annual event and its purpose and aim for the people in this region.
Most of them expressed support and promised to give support to the event which is increasingly becoming popular not only in Roviana but across the country.
There are visitors from overseas who are in Munda for the festival as tourists.
The main sponsors of the festival are Soltuna and NFD.
Their bosses were present at the opening.
Other main supporter is the Solomon Islands Ports Authority.
Representatives from the private sector have also shown their support and promised to remain at the festival during the week.
The Deputy Premier of the Western Province was the official guest at the opening.
Malloney Lopotoo is also the Provincial Member for Munda Ward 15, the spiritual home of the lagoon festival.
In his address and words of acknowledgement he thanked the local organizing committee, NFD, Soltuna, the Ports Authority and Our Telekom for their ongoing commitment.
He told the crowd about the intentions of the Provincial Government that they are increasingly focusing attention on the development of tourism in the province
“Tourism must now be addressed and seen as an alternative economic case,” Mr Lopotoo said.
“This is a real good strategy to replace the other sectors the province is slowing losing its grips such as round log exports,” he added.
He praised the private sector in west New Georgia for their help.
The week-long festival is being graced by the presence of reps from the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force and RAMSI, who will use the occasion to raise awareness about RAMSI’s drawdown.
By BRIAN BETI