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Festival winners finally get their prizes

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior Staff Reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, January 01, 2013    

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Abbygaye Dallas and Levy’s Heritage, winners of the 2012 Jamaica Festival Song and Gospel Song competitions respectively, have finally received their prizes.

Gospel singer Lubert Levy, whose children comprise Levy’s Heritage, and Dallas confirmed yesterday that they received their prizes last week, just over five months after winning the titles in the annual Jamaica Festival.

Dallas, who won the Festival Song title with her composition Real Born Jamaican, received a cheque for $500,000 last Thursday, and was invited by the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission to collect her $2.4 million 2012 Nissan Versa once she has the vehicle insured.

Levy, speaking on behalf of his children, told the Jamaica Observer that while they had received their $500,000 prize money some weeks ago, they didn’t get their car and their prize weekend until late November.

A veteran of the JCDC gospel festival competition for years, and a former winner himself (2004), Levy said he had never had so much trouble getting his prizes.

“Well, we knew that the car was in Jamaica from October, so we never stopped pressing the JCDC for it. There was a lot of run around and rigmarole, but we knew we had to get it because it was sponsored,” Levy said.

Fidelity Motors Sales Executive David Crawford explained that, although token car keys were handed over to the winners on the nights of the contests, their cars were imported after the competition and arrived in October. However, he admitted that they should have been handed out before now.

The JCDC also handed out token cheques on the nights of the contests.

Dallas told the Observer yesterday that last week the JCDC gave her a cheque for $500,000 in prize money, and invited her to pick up her car at their office, with her own insurance.

But while she was happy that she would finally be receiving her car, she said she was disappointed that the $1-million cash prize for winning the song competition had been slashed in half.

“When I entered the competition, I was told that the first prize was $1 million, then towards the end of the contest we were told that the prize was only $500,000,” she said.

JCDC Director Delroy Gordon could not be contacted to explain the reduction in the prize money. However, in a previous interview he blamed it on the limited subventions from the Ministry of Youth and Culture. He said that he could not explain the issue of the $300 million allocation for Jamaica 50, which was announced by the ministry and referred the Observer to the permanent secretary. However, then permanent secretary Robert Martin refused to respond to questions from this newspaper.

Former minister of youth, sports, and culture, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange said that she was surprised when she heard that the cash prize was cut in half.

“In 2008, I personally introduced to the competition a cash prize of $1 million for the writer of the song and a motorcar courtesy of Fidelity Motors, and we had hoped that the prizes would be increased instead of decreased in ensuing years,” Grange said.

The winner of the 2011 Festival Song contest, Pessoa, confirmed that he received his $1 million immediately after the contest, and his car weeks later.

Both Grange, and Gordon in an earlier interview, explained that there had to be some delay in the handing over of the motorcar in order to facilitate the JCDC acquiring a 20 per cent concession, as well as the necessary registration papers. However, Grange said that it should not have taken five months.

She said she was also concerned that after the JCDC budgeted more than $300 million for Jamaica 50 and Festival events, the main prize for the Festival Song was reduced by 50 per cent.

“I think the minister has a duty to explain to the public why it was cut,” she said.

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