Document Type : Original Research Articles
The study investigated the perception of Awon Mass Wedding Festival by the contemporary Shao community of Kwara State, Nigeria. The importance of this study dwells on reawakening the consciousness of relevant stakeholders towards ensuring sustainable development of Awon Mass Wedding Festival. Literature reveals that festivals are expressive ways to celebrate glorious heritage, culture, and traditions. Often, debates polarize into those advocating change and those wishing to preserve “traditional” or “local” culture in the face of modernization and globalization. However, preserving a culture ensures “authenticity” which is mostly cherished in heritage tourism. Awon Mass Wedding Festival is a unique culture found in very few countries of the world. Questionnaire was used to retrieve data from 20 maidens purposively selected and 107 residents selected by simple random technique. Participant observation and Key Informant Interview were also deployed to elicit information from respondents. The study established the most important factors encouraging maidens’ participation to include culture (54.2%) and family custom and tradition (19.6%) while factors discouraging participation were; civilization (36.4%), religion (17.7%), lack of interest (5.6%), educational level (3.7%), erroneous belief about implications of participation in the festival (2.8%), and emigration (1.9%).Ways of improving the festival identified in this study were; increasing awareness and publicity (43%), securing sponsorship (38.3%), encouraging participation (14.9%) and including more leisure activities in the festival (3.7%). Correlation analysis showed a significant relationship between education (r = -0.194), membership of social organizations (r = 0.304) and perception of Awon festival at p < 0.05. Conclusively, majority of the community members have a positive perception of the festival, though this had been grossly influenced by religion. Contemporarily, not all maidens of the community subscribe to the festival unlike in the past. The study recommended that; members of the community should be re - orientated to support the festival, maidens of high social status should be encouraged to participate, and the Local Organizing Committee should strategize for better branding of the festival.