Mare 2014, a three-day event, was held with glamour and glitz in Idanre, the ancient town of many hills in Ondo State. Abiodun Awolaja was at the grand finale night when artistes set the town aglow.IT was night when the Idanre hills came into view, again solid in their majestic splendour. They would never cease to be intimidating in their sheer expanse, and the surging crowds were more enthusiastic this time around. There are, many would say, great rock formations elsewhere in Nigeria'Abeokuta's Olumo, Ikere-Ekiti's Olosunta, serenaded by the poet-critic Niyi Osundare in The Eye of the Earth'but finding another community which is so naturally and richly walled by mountains, creating a linear settlement that will always be a tourism wonder, could be a daunting task. Idanre comes across as a geographic poetry: the houses are built on solid rock and backed by solid rock. And the fact that Mare 2014 grand finale was on December 13 when heat is not a threat meant that Sunday Tribune was in sync with a favourable weather.Mare festival (Mare means 'don't slip/fall' in Yoruba) is in the main a mountain climbing event, but it has always incorporated athletics, lucky dips and cultural displays. This year, even golf came into the equation, with the state governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, insisting on the grand finale night that the festival would continue to expand in scope, in order to make the town the destination of choice for tourists from across the world.While the competitions proper took place on Friday, December 12, Saturday was the night of razzmatazz, when artistes dazzled the town. It was, like previous editions, a night performance with no gate fee. The venue was the Idanre Hills Resort, set to be listed in the prestigious World Heritage Scheme by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as the team of experts from the world body concluded its final tour of inspection on the site last Sunday. However, unlike last year when artistes like Danny Young, Lord of Ajasa, Obesere and 9ice were on parade at the grand finale, Mare 2014 grand finale was dominated by local and up and coming acts, no doubt to enhance local content and give ample space to the fledgling musicians to exhibit their talents. Still, there were established artistes such as This Year crooner, Iledare Oluwajuwanlo (aka Jaywon) and the Ibadi exponent, May D.Everything about Mare 2014 spoke of domestic tourism. The stage was decorated with traditional materials and carefully foregrounded with talking, drums, percussion instruments like shekere (a beaded gourd), gongs and statues. The podium on which the state governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, his wife, Olukemi, Professor Niyi Akinnaso, Professor Kole Omotosho, members of the state executive council including the Chief of Staff, Dr Kola Ademujimi and the Commissioner for Information, Hon Kayode Akinmade and his wife, and Nollywood actor, Jibola Dabo, sat at a section of the resort, was decorated with local mats and other traditional materials.There were many stars of the night, among them one Rotimi of Idanre, a dancer par excellence who led a cultural troupe and whose music easily resonated with the local community; and there was St Larry, who sang in the Idanre dialect. There was Skido, who brought back memories of the Kennery exponent, Orlando Owoh with his rich baritone voice, and there was Lady Ekwe, an Ondo indigene noted for her dexterity on the Igbo musical instrument, ekwe. While her fusion of ballet forms with the rich drum texture of Yoruba bata as she sang 'A o samodun,' (We shall witness next year'') anchored on an 'Iye, iye, iye' refrain was not well received by a section of the audience, she left no one in doubt about her determination to maximize her turn.One Colo, a comedian, livened up the atmosphere by telling the audience the benefits of going to hell where, he said, they would be privileged to meet Michael Jackson. He also told of an encounter with an illiterate police officer to whom he handed over his School Certificate and University Matriculation Examination results when the latter demanded his vehicle papers. He quipped: 'After carefully checking the papers, the police officer returned them to me and said: 'God help you say these vehicle papers complete!' Even the policemen laughed.Of the fledgling talents, it was however Johny Moore, an Idanre-born hip hop artiste following in the footsteps of Lord of Ajasa and 91ce, that was received with the widest applause. Constructing his poetry on homecoming, Johny Moore spoke of how his roots were in the ancient town, and how he would always visit home to enjoy the traditional delicacy of pounded yam and okra soup, and drink palm wine. His hit track, 'Omo Idanre ni mi, baba mi wa lati Idanre Idanre, iye mi wa nati Idanre Idanre,' was widely applauded by the audience and even Governor Mimiko, speaking as the night performance drew to a close, promised to assist him in his craft.May D, the Ibadi crooner, had a swell time on stage. But it was Jaywon however who proved to be the rave of the night as he rolled out his hit track, This Year. The audience knew his song, a prayer that 2014 should bring money, joy, and all the things that make life enjoyable. As he sang: 'Odun yi a san was s'owo, a san wa s'ayo, a san wa si gbogbo nnkan t'eeyan fi n la'yo,' thousands shared the lines, but not at his own pace, so he urged the audience to put more life into their reception. And when he sang 'O madantin' where he chronicled the struggle to attain stardom ('No be today wey all these boys dey hustle for fame/E don tey wey all these boys dey wahala for fame'), it was clear that he was not the only one who wanted at that moment 'to party away.' He invited himself to beat the gong so that all the girls could palambolo (whatever that means!), and warned the audience not to allow anyone to delay them: 'O ya Jaywon lu agogo, make all these girls dey walanbolo, ki lo n je ko manaworo, ma je k'enikan da e duro.''Today,' he announced, 'I am ready to party away,' corrupting the Christian song: 'What shall we do today' Today o, I will lift up my voice in praise.' He also sang 'Catch me if you can' and 'Won lele won o ba,' before eventually yielding the stage to the smaller stars.It was not however all dance and song on the occasion, as the association of tourism editors led by Comrade Wale Ojo-Lanre presented a merit award to the governor in recognition of his contributions to tourism, in particular the upgrading of the Idanre Hills Resort to a World Heritage Site. Speaking on the occasion, Governor Mimiko said: 'I welcome all guests from all over Nigeria and abroad, and especially our Nollywood friends and all of you distinguished leaders of our people here in Ondo. The 2014 Mare festival edition has been particularly exciting because we have offered a new dimension to the old bouquet. We had a golf tournament this year and, by the grace of God, we will have two next year. As I came in into this place, I could behold the natural beauty of the environment, the best amphitheatre anywhere in the world. This resort will hold events every month in 2015.'This is in our effort to make Ondo State the number one tourism destination in Nigeria. This resort will be brought to the attention of the global community and will become the destination of choice for fun seekers all over the world,' he said, while positing that the state government would continue to promote domestic tourism in Nigeria in recognition of the place of tourism as a revenue earner and a means of promoting culture. He thanked the Director General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Sally Mbanefo and her entourage for partnering with the state government on Mare 2014.The time was a few minutes to 2 a.m and the governor and his entourage were leaving. But the fanfare had only just begun. And as Tourism Editor, Wale Ojo-Lanre, Remi Oladoye and the writer navigated the busy way out of the resort and far into the recesses of Idanre, bound for Alagbaka in the state capital, Akure, the peace and poetry of night time in Ondo State meshed with fine memories of 2014, a tale still yet to unfold'. Click here to read full news..