The first time I visited the Penang Times Square Durian Durian Fest it was the first day and little was set up. Corry Lincoln, the Events Manager, was running around setting up tables and electrical equipment, looking sweaty and as stressed as a chilled out weekend DJ can.
He invited me to the Press Release the following Monday. I was excited, as this is my first official Press Release and I was curious to see how the Malaysian journalists do their job. Corry told me there would also be press from China!
|Corry with his staff|
I arrived early, and the festival was already a lot busier than it had been the previous week. “Relax, take it eee-eeeeasy,” blared over the loudspeaker. Every few minutes Corry would pick up the microphone and announce in his deep, DJ voice, “Seventeen days of durian, back to back. Eat durian, sleep durian, think durian, think Penang Times Square.” Everyone was in a good mood. I caught a shot of a durian vendor dancing to the music behind his stall, while another man juggled a small durian. I asked him if it hurt his hands. He grinned and showed me his bloody fingers.
As a member of the press, I was given a folder with a schedule of events and a list of the participating officials for the Q&A. I was excited to see that officials from the Department of Agriculture, the Penang Ministry of Tourism, the Head of Penang Times Square, a representative from Colgate, and a representative from Air Asia would all be present for questioning.
|Rob is the Durian Man|
The journalists filed in one by one. I was surprised to see that many were wearing jeans and sloppy polo t-shirts. Carrying backpacks, they looked more like bored high school students than professionals. The officials arrived and sat in a row in front. First the Head of Penang Times Square gave a speech, and then they opened for questioning.
This was the part I had been waiting for. I have so many questions about durian myself, that was curious to see what kind of information the professionals would be looking for. I was shocked when no one raised a hand. Timidly I raised mine. Corry passed me the microphone, and I heard my own squeaky voice ask my question.
My question was the only one. After the Q&A, several officials approached me and gave me their cards. I was elated, as at least I now have contacts! The Q&A was followed by a photo shoot with the durian statues in front of the festival. “Durian Man” made an appearance, but sadly no one seemed interested in him and he stood alone at the sidelines of the flurry. The box was kept square on purpose, to represent the square part of the “Penang Times Square Durian Durian Festival.”
I felt almost bad for these two women who had come to enjoy a durian afternoon. Caught in the crossfires of the paparazzi, they covered their flushed faces and giggled with embarrassment.
The festival coordinators provided a generous buffet of durians for after the Press Release. I was surprised to see a lot of the journalists eating with a spoon, afraid to get their hands dirty! After one or two pieces, they buzzed off, leaving a lot of durian! Corry invited Rob and our friend Chris Randall to get in on the action and help clean up. And clean up we did.
|Rob and I at the durian sampling|
Since the durian was free, we didn’t qualify to enter the “Count the Spikes” competition. Oh well. Maybe next year.
Oh… and the answer(s), too, please 🙂
Didn't mean to angle for a comment!
I asked if "durian tourism" played a significant role in the local economy and if they had any statistics on it and where tourists were from. The answer was that yes, durian is the major draw to Penang for tourists, especially from Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Hong Kong. Air Asia offers specials and advertises the festivals online and in its flight magazines. They didn't have any statistics.
OK, I'll bite: What was your question?