KINGSTON — The National Stadium was transformed into a sea of black, gold and green on Saturday August 6, as thousands of proud Jamaicans, clad in the national colours, gathered to celebrate the country's 49th anniversary of independence in the usual grand style.
The audience exuberantly waved Jamaican flags, blew horns, rocked and swayed in response to the mix of dancehall, mento, gospel and reggae music featured in this year’s Independence Grand Gala.
Dubbed "Jamaica Rocks", the event was divided into segments showcasing the country’s rich cultural heritage through song and dance, with an exciting array of performances featuring singers, deejays and dancers, including a 2,000-member group from 12 inner-city communities in Kingston, St Andrew and St Catherine.
Gesturing to the packed stadium, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Hon. Olivia Grange, told JIS News she was delighted to see how many persons turned out for this year's Grand Gala.
"I'm feeling extremely positive about the turnout, about the performances and how people are thoroughly enjoying themselves,” she said.
The Minister said she was pleased with the talent of the young performers, in particular, noting that the scouting process started from September of last year with parish and national competitions, workshops and training.
"It's been wonderful and these young people, it means something to them. They are drawn from rural and inner-city communities, and they look forward to this (performing)…and it means so much to the population,” she said.
She noted that the "Journey Continues" (the theme for the overall Independence celebrations) "as we move into our golden anniversary next year."
Following the pre-show, the main event kicked off with a 'Ceremonies in Music' segment, to the appreciative uproar of the crowd, featuring the combined bands of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the Jamaica Defence Force, Boys Scouts, Girl Guides and the Boys and Girls Brigade performing together for the first time.
The Mounted Police also delighted the crowd, triggering peals of laughter with their equestrian antics.
"Drumsong" and "Plantation Rites" featured various dance troupes, and included fire dancers, pedal cyclists and a display of 'Classic cars', while the religious segment, "Glory", featured modern and traditional music and dance.
Other segments showcased costumed groups, community marching bands, stilt walkers, performances by festival and gospel song winners and the acrobatic dexterity of the combined Cheerleading Squad.
A spectacular fireworks display topped off the electrifying Grand Gala, one of the major events for the Jamaica Independence Festival.
Director of Marketing and Public Relations at the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), Doris Thaxter, said she was pleased with the turnout, and that the JCDC was appreciative of the support from Corporate Jamaica in terms of sponsorship and volunteers, who gave of their time and their resources to ensure the successful staging of the show.
"It's heartwarming to see Jamaicans having that sense of pride, wanting to be here to celebrate on this our Independence Day, the 49th year of Independence…it's a milestone," she added.
Patron, Carlene Levy said she was “loving” her first-time experience attending the Grand Gala, noting that she normally would have viewed the event on the television, but that “ it is better watching it from this perspective. It’s beautiful, it’s lovely."
Another spectator, Kemar Ford, who was also a first time attendee, said he was enjoying the opportunity to unite with other Jamaicans in celebrating Jamaica’s 49th year of Independence.
Gavin Williams told JIS News that the show surpassed his expectations, and was even better than last year's.
"It's…more exciting, more fun," he gushed, expressing the hope that the 50th anniversary celebration will be even surpass this year.
By ALECIA SMITH, JIS Reporter