In scorching heat, thousands of spectators gathered yesterday to witness the jubilee independence costume and float parade.
The annual Mashramani parade, usually held in February for Republic Day, was this year reserved for May 26th to be celebrated as one of the calendar events for Guyana’s 50th independence anniversary celebrations.
The parade was scheduled to start at 10am but began nearly an hour after its scheduled time. Only a few of what turned out to be 39 expected floats, including ten children’s floats, were present at the initial start time. Around 10.15am, there was a sudden rush of spectators, resulting in scores of persons congregating around the Stabroek Market and along Brickdam.
At first, they did not line the roadways but gathered at the junctions, like hubs. Perhaps they were attracted by the energy of the 500-strong Guyana Amazon Warriors band, which had a bass that vibrated throughout the Stabroek Square.
A “children’s showcase,” featuring the best groups from this year’s children’s Mashramani competition, initiated the proceedings. The float “Sunrise,” featuring students of the Sophia Special School, who were brilliantly coloured in gold and blue costumes, opened the procession albeit without the vigour that the Amazon Warriors band had exhibited at the starting point.
The colours of the flag, naturally, dominated the overall costume designs, but gold particularly seemed to be incorporated seamlessly throughout. A few other schools passed, with the succeeding floats lagging behind, including one supported by the distant background music of the National Steel Orchestra as there was no band to accompany any of them.
Perhaps one of the most outstanding floats was the one made by the Ministry of Public Health, which depicted Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Guyana in the year of its Indpendence.
Seated in a makeshift Rolls Royce, the Queen shook her hand gracefully to the crowd as she was chauffeured through the streets. She was led by the Queen’s guard, with the reveler outfitted as both man and horse.
There were several moments when, way after the start of the parade, bands could be seen cutting through the path of the floats in a hurried attempt to make their way to the starting point. One group of revellers even made their way down Brickdam and joined their band, which had already begun its procession.
“It’s kinda disjointed because there seems to be no central meeting point, but I guess that works because everywhere there’s something to see,” a spectator said.
Another said the parade did not appear to be as exciting as the previous years, but stated that his critique was based on the little that he saw, as he had just come out to the festivities.
For others, though, this year’s parade was described as being more patriotic than the previous years. “We were drifting towards carnival and what the other Caribbean people were doing, but this year feels more Guyanese,” a spectator stated, while adding that the music and mode of dress this year appeared to be more in keeping with Guyana’s customs.
Additionally, the most played song was possibly “50 Years” by Natural Black, but “Not a Blade of Grass” by Dave Martins, and “GUYANA” by Poonam Singh were also among those frequently used. The National Songs of Guyana were also played from time to time.
Nearly two hours and four floats later (not including schools), the heat had become sweltering. Rain clouds lay heavy in the sky, but aside from the light showers experienced earlier, the sun had conquered, and the rain remained nothing but a threat.
The crowd on Brickdam grew. Further up the route, persons lined both sides of the street, with gaps evident where businesses had set up their own stations. This border extended straight to D’Urban Park, forming a pathway for the revellers.
The park’s stands appeared packed to capacity and patrons made seats of the southern wall where the parade passed. For the most part, it proved to be a better vantage point than the lower stands provided. Those seated in the bottom-half of the stands could not see the floats as they entered since they had their view blocked by those who crowded the barricades surrounding the arena. Umbrellas were the chief accessory for these patrons, as no cover is provided to those in lower-seating.
Some distance down, many had gathered around Cuffy Square, which was seemingly the newest rave in Georgetown, as persons stopped for photo-ops. The fountain was flowing for the first time in a long time.
A float arrived. Judging from the way the revellers’ feet dragged along the gravel, it was evident that the heat had done them in.