Fourth-day success for Merritone Homecoming
Merritone, at 67 years, the oldest active sound system in the world, ventured into new territory for this year's resort segment of its annual Homecoming and Family Reunion week-long celebration. Normally, the all-inclusive hotel stay is three days, but this time around, it was extended to four, ending on Monday, National Heroes Day.
Monte Blake of Merritone told The Gleaner that he was cautious about the additional day at the Meli· Braco in Trelawny after near continuous entertainment from Friday. However, he is happy with the outcome as the turnout and atmosphere on a night when the trio of PACKAGE (Patricia Edwards, Karen Smith and Gem Myers) closed the show. Blake is so upbeat about the fourth day, that he plans to have a Jambiz play in 2018, as well as a dance troupe.
Summing up the all-inclusive weekend, Blake said, "it is a paradigm shift, in the sense that it was Merritone, but we brought in a tremendous amount of entertainment and new talent." A stage was set up on Main Street on the grounds replicating historic Falmouth, Trelawny's capital, with the sea as part of the backdrop.
In the all-inclusive setting, Blake said VIP service was available to everyone and credited the hotel staff for their courtesy and level of service. He laughs as he speaks about a young lady on the dining room staff asking him if he was connected with Merritone and telling her his name. The next time he saw her, she said, "I Googled you. You large!"
Blake also noted a significant presence of young people coming to the reunion, including the youngest of three generations - grandmother, daughter, and granddaughter.
"The only complaint was that it should have been for a week," Blake said. He also said that lots of persons who wanted to attend the weekend tried to get tickets too late. Once again, many persons from overseas made the trek, Blake recounting how one man bought T-Shirts with the late Winston Blake's image. "He said, 'I met that guy. He is amazing'," Monte Blake recounted.
Monday's closing of Merritone's 67th anniversary was a double affair as the traditional Las Lick was held at The Deck, New Kingston, with Krazy Kris, Clive Budoo, Anthony 'Louie'Abrahams and DJ Glen C (actor Glen 'Titus' Campbell) playing the music. Among the celebratory activities before was a thanksgiving service at Webster's Memorial, as well as events at the Alibi, Upper Waterloo Road, and the standard Merritone Thursday evening at Waterfalls in Liguanea, St Andrew.
The plans for Merritone's 70th anniversary were already in train, but the outcome of the 67th-anniversary events has put additional spring in Blake's step.
"We will be retracing the footsteps of Merritone over the years and perhaps make some new ones," he said, naming South Africa, Cuba, Atlanta in the USA, Toronto in Canada, and London in England, among the places they will perform.
And it is not a matter of simply playing some songs.
"You can buy a lot of records and don't know what to do with them. Merritone is a lifestyle. It is family," Blake said.