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How Port Harcourt ushered in the New Year

The year 2014 will no doubt go down in history as a year of many major highlightsin the entertainment industry. The year started off on a high note with events in different parts of the country: from reality TV shows and cultural displays to company sponsored gala shows and breath-taking performances by notable stars in the music, fashion, movies, sports and other creative industries.

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For lovers of the arts, culture and general entertainment 2014 will be remembered as the year in which the country raised and sustained the entertainment tempo from the beginning to the end of the year with numerous events that crisscrossed the length and breadth of the country. For festival lovers, the list is endless – from the Eyo Festival in Lagos, the Osun Oshogbo in Osun State, the Igue (Ewere) festival in Edo state to the revered Argungu fishing festival in Kebbi State to mention but a few. For Music lovers, there was the Channel O Awards, Headies and the MTV Awards to celebrate the bests of the industry while the Abuja International Film and Video festival and the Eko International Film festivals were held to satisfy thethirst of Nollywood aficionados to celebrate and reward the best players in the industry.

2014 is also a year in which carnival lovers had a field day with the increase in the number of carnivals held in Nigeria. Some carnivals readily come to mind: The Imo Carnival, Abia Carnival, Abuja Carnival, the Calabar Carnival and of course, Carniriv: The Port Harcourt Carnival, which is touted as the oldest and largest carnival brand on the African continent.

Every year, the people of Rivers State and indeed visitors from far and near converge in Port Harcourt for an annual ritual to usher in the new and 2014 was no exception. Although the people of Rivers State are not new to fun and play, the passion and excitement with which they prepared for Carniriv 2014 will make a captive audience out of a first time visitor as the carnival got off to a dazzling start with the maiden edition of Miss Carniriv Beauty Pageant held at the Presidential Hotel on Friday the 12th of December. After several parades and elimination stagesby the bevy of beautiful girls drawn from the 23 local government areas in the state, Miss Port Harcourt, Stephaine Chinda, was crowned as the Queen.

The new Queen went home with a brand new Hyundai Grand car and a foreign scholarship as part of the Rivers State Government’s foreign study scholarship scheme among other prizes. The first and second runners up also went home with consolation prizes with other category winners. An outstanding performance from WAJE, backed by a first class presentation from event compeer, Uti Nwachukwumade the evening a memorable one for both the contestants and audience.

Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th nights were filled with performances by up-and-coming local stars from Rivers State who delighted their audience with undiluted music in line with the vision of the Rivers State Tourism Development Agency (RSTDA) to empower local musicians. A total of circa 60 local talents who were selected via keenly contested auditions held earlier in the year at different locations performed during the entire nine-day duration of the carnival

If you thought that the Miss Carniriv Beauty pageant was the only highpoint of the carnival, you were wrong. It got even better as the days progressed. Next up was the Praise Jam which was combined with the Dance of Fire Flies for the opening ceremony held at the Carnival Village, Elekahia Stadium on Monday 15th. The opening ceremony was a spectacle to behold with fireworks lighting up the Port Harcourt skies and enveloping the city in incandescent rainbow like glows that lasted for minutes, making the entire spectacle a true Dance of Fireflies!

Tuesday the 16th drew lovers of culture into the Carnival Village for a showpiece arts showcase called the Cultural Art Exhibition. People from different walks of life made an instant connection with the exhibition. The well attended event eased into another cultural display aptly called, Ekere – Rhythm of the Tribes. For first time visitors, Ekere is the ultimate centre stage to experience diverse cultural displays of rhythm and dance

Wednesday 17th turned out another winner for the traditionalists with the International Aquatic Fiesta, an event that is indigenous to Rivers State. The booming cannons from the war boats and aquatic acrobatics by the different Boat Regattas as the canoeists chanted popular war songs delighted the audience. Wednesday was also the day that the ‘Champions of the Sand Arena’ took the centre stage for the popular Egelege traditional wrestling contest. What the contestants lacked in steroid-induced upper body mass was compensated for by the gladiatory skills and pre-fight braggadocio mustered by the true champions of the Sand Arena. The evening was set aglow with one excellent performance after another when BAMFEST, the Black African Music Festival, kicked into full gear. The event lasted into the wee hours of the next morning even when the crowd shouted for more

Thursday 18th witnessed another round of the Cultural Art Exhibition plus the finals of Egelege and Ekere. However, the night belonged to the two veterans – Ras Kimono and Majek Fashek who headlined the performance of the evening at the Reggae 360 show. The senior duo was preceded by performances from othernotable Reggae stars and young talents. After hours of non-stop performances, it was self-evident why Port Harcourt is considered the unofficial Reggae headquarters of Africa!

Friday 19th was the appointed date for the much anticipated International Heritage Parade which brought out the best in Port Harcourt with colourful floats brightening the 14 kilometre route of the parade. It was a day in which the entire city stood still for hours. Director General of the Rivers State Tourism Development Agency, RSTDA, Dr. Sam Dede captured the philosophy behind the heritage parade in a few words: “The people of Rivers State are creatures of culture. Our culture and indeed that of every Nigerian, African or Caribbean etc is one that has endured decades and centuries of existence. We therefore go all out to celebrate our cultures by bringing Port Harcourt to a standstill every time we observe the International Heritage Parade and I am happy the 2014 is no exception,” he said. If the morning belonged to the lovers of culture, the night brought a different attraction as the night crawlers emerged from different locations to light up the night, yet again, for the Old Port Harcourt Town Groove

As with everything that has a beginning, the 2014 edition of Carniriv: The Port Harcourt Carnival reached a befitting climax on Saturday 20th of December when the Governor of Rivers State, Honourable Rotimi Amaechi, led all participants on the 14 kilometre Garden City Freestyle Parade through select routes in the city. The Governor, flanked by the APC  Gubernatorial candidate for 2015, Mr. Dakuku Peterside; Commissioner for Information, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari and the newly crowned Miss Carniriv, Stephaine Chinda among others urged the people of the state to vote for continuity in order to guarantee the sustenance of the carnival. He promised the audience that the future of the carnival is assured under the leadership of the All Progressive Congress. At the closing ceremony held later in the evening, Governor Amaechi thanked the people of the state for their faith in him and for their support in the successful hosting of Carniriv: The Port Harcourt Carnival,during the entire life of his administration

With a closing performance from Timaya on Saturday 20th December, Carniriv 2014 will be remembered for the opportunity it afforded young talents to rise and shine while performing on the same stage with indigenous global icons such as Davido, Patoranking, Phyno, Terry G, Waconzy, Majek Fashek, Ras Kimono and a host of others.

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