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Tyrone Blake, the man of the moment

Published:Sunday | April 29, 2012 | 12:00 AM

15th Merritone Family Fun Day to honour late brother, Jamaica 50

Sadeke Brooks, Staff Reporter

Days after his passing, plans are already in place to dedicate July's staging of the 15th annual Merritone Family Fun Day in the United States to Tyrone Blake.

Tyrone, who is the third of the quartet, after Trevor and Winston, with Monty Blake the youngest, will be honoured at the event that will be held at Lake Quassy, Route 64, Middlebury, Connecticut.

Merritone is the oldest continuously active sound system in Jamaica, having been started by Val Blake in St Thomas. Merritone celebrated its 61st anniversary and the 21st anniversary of their annual Merritone Family Reunion last October.

In the company of brothers Monty and Winston, shortly after speaking to Trevor on the phone, Tyrone passed away last weekend along Kensington Crescent, St Andrew. They were about to attend a brunch and "as we got there he felt that he was not feeling well, and then he said he wanted to sit in the car a bit," Monty said.

Tyrone would have been 70 years old this year.

never fully recovered

Only last November, it was discovered that Tyrone had a heart condition, when he was hospitalised after he and Winston were in a motor vehicle accident. According to Monty, he never fully recovered.

In a bid to keep his memory alive, the decision has been made to honour Tyrone at the 15th annual Merritone Family Fun Day.

Speaking with The Sunday Gleaner, Conroy Allison, who started the event with Winston more than a decade ago, said it was only right to pay homage to Tyrone.

"Tyrone, although not a player on the sound system, played a vital role in the development of Merritone. He was very likeable and very popular and has made many persons supporters of Merritone. It (his death) was untimely and unexpected but it was the right thing to do (tribute)," said Allison, who is also a radio personality on 93.5FM in New York.

In addition to honouring Tyrone on the day with a plaque that will be presented to his brothers, Allison said all promotional material and public relations done about the event will make mention of Tyrone. He said there are also plans to do something more permanent, but this has not been decided on yet.

In a STAR interview earlier this week, Monty was still in shock.

"It is a shock. It nuh reach mi yet. I have a delayed reaction," Monty said.

Naturally, coping with the loss of a brother has been difficult.

"I spoke to Trevor earlier this week. It's very difficult and very rough as you can imagine. They grew up very close and, of course, the business of Merritone has made them even closer," Allison told The Sunday Gleaner.

"I don't think they will be looking to replace Tyrone, but I think they will continue to work hard and provide a good Merritone product in memory of him."

The Merritone Family Fun Day is described as one of the largest Caribbean family events of its kind in North America. But the event started more modestly.

"Winston Blake and myself, quite a few years ago, were having a chat one day and he told me about this concept of his. A day of fun, games and camaraderie. We found a venue and we started it. It wasn't born big. The first couple of years was a struggle but after three to four years, it really started to grow," he said, boasting that the event now has at least 4,000 patrons.

"It's been going very, very well. One of the things that we do is provide a menu of activities for the family to enjoy all day."

'Family of the Year'

Some of the activities are patty eating, kiddie colouring book and dance contests, a domino tournament and a treasure hunt. He said a presentation will also be made to the 'Caribbean Family of the Year'.

Pluto Shervington will be performing at the event, which will have selectors like Road International and DJ Hotlex.

And, with this year being Jamaica's 50th year of independence, Allison said Jamaica will also be celebrated.

"Miss Matilou will be paying tribute to 50 years of Jamaica's comedy. She will be paying tribute specifically to Miss Lou. She is extremely funny and she knows the culture," he said.

With the celebration of the life of Tyrone Blake and Jamaica's 50th year of Independence, Allison expects a good staging of the 15th annual Merritone Family Fun Day.

"My expectation is that we will probably have a record crowd this year because it's Jamaica's 50th and our 15th year of doing it. The promotion is going to be extremely aggressive and we hope that the usual tri-state will support us. We appreciate the support from our many friends and supporters over the years," he said.