It was an exhilarating affair, as Jamaicans, from every nook and cranny of the island, converged at the National Stadium in Kingston on Monday (Aug. 6) for the Independence Grand Gala.
The event dubbed: 'Tributes in Gold' was the showpiece of the nation's Golden Jubilee celebrations, which served to highlight significant achievements of the nation over the past 50 years.
When the show drew to a close some minutes to 11:00 p.m., the bevy of flag-waving, screaming, gold-clad Jamaicans showed no signs of fatigue after witnessing five-hours of scintillating and energetic performances celebrating the country’s cultural heritage.
From the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) helicopter fly over, performances by popular artistes and costumed and uniformed groups, marching bands, acrobatics and explosion of pyrotechnics, the audience remained transfixed by the spectacular presentation, which was befitting of the country’s milestone.
[PHOTOS: Grand Gala 2012]
Hearts and voices swelled with pride, and there was a unity of spirit which oozed from the pores of everyone in the packed venue.
Governor-General of Jamaica, His Excellency, the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen; Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson-Miller; Cabinet Ministers, Mayor of Kingston, Councillor Angela Brown-Burke; and Opposition Leader, Andrew Holness; were among those in attendance.
A number of foreign dignitaries also shared in the celebration, including President of the Republic of South Africa, His Excellency Jacob Zuma; Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, the Hon. Kamla Persad-Bissessar; former United States (US) Secretary of State, Colin Powell; and President of the Nation of Islam, the Hon. Minister Louis Farrakhan.
Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon. Lisa Hanna, told JIS News that she was feeling “very humbled and very proud” to be Jamaican. “I have always been proud to be Jamaican, but more proud all of this week,” she shared.
“I am pleased that Jamaicans bought into the vision, because every time we kept talking about it (Grand Gala) and I don’t think they could conceive that we were actually going to do it,” she said.
For Minister of National Security, Hon. Peter Bunting, who said “the vibe has been incredible,” he noted that it was wonderful to have had so many senior delegations from overseas taking part in the country’s celebrations.
“I really look forward that in (the nation’s) second 50, we can just concentrate on peace, unity and prosperity for Jamaica,” he said.
Principal Director of Culture in the Ministry of Youth and Culture, Sydney Bartley, said he was pleased with the audience participation. “It’s hard to sustain excitement over (many) hours. And what people don’t realise is that it is very challenging to keep this show on a certain high and I believe we have been able to do that and everybody is feeling good. It’s just an amazing 50th anniversary,” he said.
Patron, Sanara said the event, which was free of cost to the public, “is absolutely fabulous. It is well executed, it is well organised. It is a top class event. I’m very impressed. It is easily (a cost of) $2,000/$3,000 per person for an event like this,” she gushed.
Roger Reid who was at the venue from 4:00 p.m. for the event, which kicked off at approximately 5:45 p.m., said the gala captured all of the different elements of Jamaica’s culture “and I’m really, really happy that everything turned out well and (I’m) really proud of the whole production”.
He said he was particularly impressed with the rendition done on the Rastafarian culture including paying tribute to reggae legend, Bob Marley. “I thought that segment was really powerful,” Mr. Reid said.
Another patron, Karen, told JIS News that the event was “quite enjoyable. We are seeing the culture coming out and we are having fun. It’s a nice set up.” She said she loved the opening ceremony featuring the JDF, cadets and all the uniformed groups.
These sentiments were echoed by countless patrons, who filled the stadium and were thrilled to have witnessed the event live. The turnout was so overwhelming that many patrons had to be turned back, as there was no more room to accommodate them in the 35,000-capacity venue. They were, however, not left completely disappointed as arrangements were made for them to witness the proceedings on big screens mounted at the Jubilee Village in the stadium’s car park. Persons also got the opportunity to watch the event on big screens placed at several popular locations across the island.
The Grand Gala was presented in three acts – ‘Eternal Father Bless Our Land’; ‘Natural Mystic’; and ‘Tomorrow’s People,’ and featured dancing, choral and orchestral music, popular entertainers, giant screen video projections, colourful costumes, and audience participation. There were over 3,000 performers, including uniformed groups.
A new feature of this year’s event was the incorporation of the Independence Day parade normally held at King’s House, into the grand gala in the form of a ceremonial prelude.
A key element, which stood out in the show, was the ‘Flashback to 1962’ scene where the flag raising ceremony staged at midnight on August 5, 1962, which signalled the country’s political independence, was re-enacted. This segment involved the arrival of the Jamaican flag by JDF helicopter.
Also of note, was the re-enactment of ‘Ring Ding’ the once popular TV show, in tribute to cultural icon, Dr. the Hon. Louise Bennett-Coverley (Miss Lou). This section was accompanied by a larger than life effigy of Miss Lou and featured excerpts from her most popular poems.
Magnificent fireworks and pyrotechnic displays brought a breathtaking end to this massive Grand Gala marking the country’s 50th year of Independence. It was a memorable event, which has been etched in the minds of many as truly one-of- a-kind.