Monday, August 8, 2011


By Judy Haughton-James

Souvenir Plate which we got for Mom while on a school trip
       Last Saturday, August 6, Jamaica celebrated its 49th year of Independence. As always it brought back wonderful memories of  the Festival events which provided a great deal of excitement for Janine and me over the years.  Although we did not live in Kingston, the capital of our country, or a major town we did not miss out on the celebrations. We would be glued to the television and radio for live and delayed coverage of the big events as we enjoyed Jamaica's culture in all its glory.

       The Festival Song or Popular Song competition was our No. 1 favourite.  We would eagerly listen out for the contestants every year and watch the videos to decide which one we would like to win.  Like many Jamaicans we often gravitated to the ones with the fast moving mento beat and patriotic lyrics. On the night of the finals we would not go to bed no matter how late it was as we anxiously awaited the announcement of the winning song.  There have been many good songs over the years and it was always a big treat for us to hear the radio stations play a line-up of the winners at Independence time each year.  Our favourites included those by Eric Donaldson, Roy Rayon, The Astronauts and Stanley and the Turbines.

     Jamaica has good singers in every genre of music so it came as no surprise when in 1987 a Gospel Song competition became a part of the celebrations. This competition delivered a variety of inspirational songs coming from new gospel singers who could rival many of our established gospel singers. 

       The Festival Queen Contest where representatives from all the parishes vied to become Miss Jamaica Festival Queen was yet another favourite.  Year after year each parish queen was given an opportunity to showcase her cultural awareness, talent, creativity as well as knowledge of her parish and country. Whenever each queen graced the stage this was an opportunity to boast the best gowns made by Jamaica's designers and seamstresses.

       There was a time when dressing up in the fashion for Festival was a must for many. Janine and I did get dresses made in some of these fashions and I remember our favourites were those years when calico, stripes and polka dots were the fashions chosen.

       It was also good to watch the various competitions in song, dance, drama, speech, painting, craft, sculpture, culinary arts etc.  This is when the best from every parish would proudly strut their stuff. Mello-Go-Round would eventually be the big family event where the winners in speech, dance, traditional folk forms and music would give us an excellent package of entertainment.

       The big finale was always the Grand Gala on Independence Day where you would see a huge float parade, culminating in a grand affair at the National Stadium showcasing marching bands, costumed groups, effigies of former leaders and cultural icons, dance groups, choirs, folk groups, popular singers and much more.  All in all it was a time of great celebration. These wonderful memories will certainly live on!
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