Massive ribbon arrangements, in the black, green and gold colors of Jamaica’s national flag, sprung up downtown, uptown and numerous places in between across the Caribbean island.
Ol’ time festival songs, like “Bam Bam” “Land Of My Birth” and “Nuh Wey Nuh Betta Dan Yard” boomed frequently across the air waves, in “robot” taxis as they bobbed and weaved to avoid traffic, stores hoping to draw customers and even sidewalk vendor stalls.
Hundreds of returning residents and visitors alike flocked to the Caribbean country, eager to submerge themselves into the “yard” vibes.
Independence celebrations are special in Jamaica. It’s a time the beauty of the island’s culture emerges in full bloom, the people brim with pride and, at least for a time, “forget their troubles and dance,” as the late Jamaican icon Bob Marley once sang.
“Celebration,” said 66-year-old Skip Campbell, dressed from head to toe in the black, green and gold colors of Jamaica’s flag while visiting the “Independence Village” set up across from the National Stadium here. “Everybody is enjoying themselves.”
In 2018 Jamaica marks its 56th anniversary of liberation from Britain. Emancipation Day falls on Aug. 1. Independence Day is Aug. 6.
The celebrations begin before, in many cases, and runs long after those dates. Among this year’s biggest attractions is the village. It carries the Independence theme “Jamaica 56 - One Love … One Family” and features booths with food and merchandise, plus free entertainment.
The village, open Aug. 1-6 is, according to organizers, the “designated the cultural hub for the 2018 Independence celebratory activities.” Opinions of promoters of the numerous - and popular - dances and parties that spring up during this period may differ. Yet they all agree Jamaica is in a decidedly happy mood come Independence season. Problems plaguing the nation, at least for a while, seem to fade away.
"You don’t see any crime here so,” Campbell said. “Everybody enjoy themselves.”
The village, free and open to the public, carried family activities, booths and displays of cultural items, live shows, food exhibitions. There was also a “Kiddies Village” complete with rides and a traditional “August Mawnin’ Market”.
At the National Arena, next to the village, nightly shows were scheduled between Emancipation Day and Independence Day, adding to the festival atmosphere, including the coronation of Jamaica’s Festival Queen. “Mento in the Village”, “World Reggae Dance Championship”, “Mello-Go-Roun” and “Jamaica Gospel Song Grand Final” were also on the celebration schedule.
But even before Aug. 1 Jamaicans were revved up for this year’s celebrations. On July 31 an “Emancipation Jubilee” was staged at the Seville Heritage Park in St. Ann. Other parishes marked the occasion with “Emancipation Vigils” as well.
Throughout the celebrations, Jamaicans were urged to participate in the festival fashion theme “Bandana be Bold with Black, Green and Gold”. That mean wearing bandana outfits with the flag’s colors. Many locals heeded the call, adding to the color and pageantry that make “Emancipendence” in Jamaica truly special.
The Grand Gala show at the National Stadium on Independence Day offers the celebrations’ crowning glory. It’s a culmination of pride and excitement. It’s a Jamaican jewel, one of its greatest treats.