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Cap-Haitien fete shows “positive side” of Haiti, revelers say

CAP-HAITIEN — Young men dressed in designer suits walking down the streets. Partygoers waving sparklers at an all-white affair. Crowded concerts and streets.

In real life and online, people enjoyed seeing a fun, beautiful side of Haiti displayed during the 352nd anniversary celebration of the country’s northern capital, a much-welcomed sight. For those accustomed to seeing mostly violence and gangs footage from Haiti, the Fèt Okap images and videos that went viral over the weekend were a welcome surprise.

“All my friends online right now, they’re shocked,” said Christian Dorvilier, a clothing designer based in Westchester, New York, as he stood at Fort Saint-Joseph before the Rosier Sunset event started on Aug. 14. “It’s a shocker for them to see these things happening in Haiti.”

Cap-Haitien’s four-day anniversary celebration served as an eye-opener to many about life in Haiti outside of Port-au-Prince.

“Cap-Haitien is another side of Haiti,” said Fabien Jefferson, an event organizer who coordinated the Entrepreneurial Fair of Youngsters in Cap-Haitien. “Maybe the most beautiful side. The side that’s still holding up.”

This year’s four-day anniversary also redeemed the annual celebration, whose recent renditions were criticized as lackluster, to the delight of event organizers and revelers alike. The celebration was limited due to President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination in 2021 and the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

Two of the events that garnered rave reviews this year were the Dîner en Blanc outdoor picnic and concert by Orchestre Tropicana d’Haiti whose anniversary is on Aug. 15 like Cap-Haitien.

Brought back after a three-year hiatus, the picnic at Cormier Beach Saturday evening drew hundreds of people, many from overseas. 

“It was amazing,” said Dorvilier, who attended the all-white party. “What I enjoyed the most is the culture, the unity. People enjoyed it together. They didn’t have to know each other to dance together.”

As per usual, hometown band Tropicana performed at Notre-Dame du Cap-Haitien Plaza in front of thousands for its 59th anniversary. Members of the band dressed in blue and performed behind a blue and white screen, captivating many.

“I give them [Tropicana] a 10 out 10 for the podium,” said Jephte Mondestin, 39, a construction worker. “They put effort into it. Anyone living anywhere in the world would say that this was a beautiful podium.”

Mondestin also enjoyed the music, especially when Tropicana performed “Joyeux Anniversaire.”

The 10th edition of Miss Haiti, held for the first time in Cap-Haitien instead of the usual Port-au-Prince, also drew spectators at Auberge Villa Cana of Vaudreuil hotel. Winner Mideline Phelizor, 26, will go on to represent Haiti at the 2022 Miss Universe competition at a date and place to be announced later.

“I’m really happy,” Phelizor told The Haitian Times in a phone interview on Aug. 15. “I can’t wait to start the preparation for Miss Universe.”

Other notable events included the Entrepreneurial Fair of Youngsters and Lives au Féminin, a book festival celebrating women writers.

While the celebration was alluring it came with some downsides. Two that stood out the most are the traffic in the streets — Cap-Haitien’s streets are narrow — and the lack of hotel rooms for the people who came from overseas, Jefferson said. Organizers hope to fix these issues but most importantly, other cities must also get on the spotlight — including Port-au-Prince.

“It’s not just one side of Haiti that’s beautiful, we have to fight to show that all of Haiti is beautiful,” Jefferson said.

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