Patrons, participants, reflect, compare Grand Gala experience
It was the perfect culminating activity. The concept was refreshing and exciting. This was due to a consistent measured number of dances, fireworks, and other forms of entertainment used to keep the energy level of the festive occasion on a high.
So it was on Sunday at the Independence Grand Gala held at the National Stadium. Many Jamaicans braved the weather to enjoy the culminating celebratory activity used to mark their country's 55th anniversary of political Independence from England.
Among those in attendance was Kenisha McGeachy, who described her experience as, "Great. I loved it.
"This was more exciting than the 50th," she said. "Everything, the dancing, although we had less musicians (that is fewer vocalists), and the fireworks, it was more exciting."
Her hope for the future is that there will be "less crime. I am very worried about sending my daughter out".
Her daughter, Sahai Crowther, will be in grade two come September. She was one of the dancers. She described the experience as just fun.
Sarah Norman, another dancer, said that at times, the rehearsal process was "kind of hard" but the experience was "amazing, and entertaining". She performed the ska dance and explained that "ska, normally, is an old-time dance, and I think it is the biggest dance in Jamaica."
Michael Holgate and L'Antoinette Stines were two of six choreographers responsible for the very engaging carnival of Jamaican dances on show.
"It's wonderful, and I am honoured to be asked as a choreographer. There are many choreographers, but I was asked," said Stines.
She continued, " I was a little girl in uniform when Jamaica got Independence, so to reach Jamaica 55 and see the grandeur of this Independence and the fact that we are able to do this, I stood out there and cried. It means a lot."
Stines says working with the children was "challenging", but "at the same time, the children are so fabulous, you fall in love and wish you would see them again the next day, but it was challenging".
For Holgate, "It's always a pleasure ... I love doing Grand Gala. What I love about Grand Gala is that it is about community building. A lot of people give it flack about hard times, but it is community building."
Holgate says that when these people of various communities get together, they have to work as a team. "That is how production works, and it is a beautiful thing to see."
Minister of Culture, Gender, Youth and Sport, Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, also weighed in. "It was a great evening of celebration." She said that she was a little worried about the weather. "I called the prime minister and he said we can't postpone an official function, so we are going ahead, and we went ahead, and it has turned out good. God is good all the time, I am really happy about how it has turned out."
Additionally, the Gala was a consistent spectacular display of fireworks and tributes paid to former Prime Minister Edward Seaga and musical icon Jimmy Cliff. The Jamaica Constabulary Force, which was marking its 150th anniversary, contributed to the spectacle and excitement, likewise Jamaican vocalists like Ernie Smith.