Friday, September 14 marked the one-year anniversary of Kenneth ‘Ken Motorboat’ Ferguson’s passing, and members of his beloved Classic Dancers Junkanoo Group have decided to pay homage to their leader this weekend, in honor of his unwavering love and passion for Junkanoo.
Vice Chairman of The Classic Dancers, Malcolm Smith, spoke to this daily on September 13, where he shared some of the plans the group has scheduled to remember their fallen leader.
“We intend on having a get together for our group members at the shack this weekend, but to kick it off we are all going to visit his graveside on Friday. For those who can make it, we just plan to spend some time there, reflecting on the many years that we would have spent with him. We also plan to host a mega grill and chill for the group members at the shack, basically, to remember the good years we had with him in the group.
“We also intend to have a balloon release as well and give certain key members the opportunity to be able to speak on the impact of his life on certain members of the group and the group as a whole. This weekend will, basically, be just a time of reflection for the group members. Obviously, after that we will commence with our full practice on Sunday evening, in commemoration of the first-year anniversary since his passing,” Smith revealed.
Elaborating on the impact Ferguson had, not only on his passion for Junkanoo, but also the love he had for sports as well, Smith said, “A lot of persons do not even know that ‘Motorboat’ actually was involved in sports. Mind you, there were a lot of persons that rushed with the group who actually grew up in The Classic Dancers Junkanoo Group – some of the older, veteran members, some who are still with the group, some maybe not – but a lot of them actually got into Junkanoo, because of the fact that ‘Motorboat’ was into baseball. He would actually recruit for his Junkanoo Group through sports.
“By the time he left the baseball scene alone and went into Junkanoo full time, he had such a strong backing with the younger persons. Obviously, this was a group that he started in 1987. It was conceived in 1986, materialized throughout 1986, and we hit the road for the first time in 1987. So, we are talking about a group that has been around for 31 years and counting.
“His impact on Junkanoo was not even just on the island of Grand Bahama. I often travel to Nassau and throughout The Bahamas, and most of the time when I tell persons I am a member of The Classic Dancers and I say the name ‘Motorboat,’ everyone’s reaction is that they knew him … telling stories about him. I told his son and daughter that that touched me a lot, to know that his name meant so much within the Junkanoo community.
“We are talking about an individual who was such a strong advocate for Junkanoo in The Bahamas in general, but particularly here on Grand Bahama because this is where we are. He was always fighting for the rights of Junkanooers and was one of the main advocates for Junior Junkanoo, because obviously that is the feeder program for the adult groups. He always wanted to keep that connection, bridging that gap between the junior schools, to keep that line of communication going with them so that they are the future Junkanoo members, from the adult groups’ standpoint. Those are just some of the things that he was very adamant about,” recalled Smith.
“In lieu of his death these are some of the ideas that we as the new executive board, are pushing to ensure that they continue to live on even after his passing. Some of the things, I believe, as he got older became a little too much for him to handle so some things he started to let go and just focus on the main Junkanoo. There are some things that we have actually re-established relationships with for example, with a couple of schools that he would have had an impact on initially, back in the early 1980s. We just basically want to go back to our roots and try and get imbedded within the community again, because that is where you find, first of all, your support and secondly that is how you help the group to grow.”
Smith was further questioned how the group has been holding up, one year after their leader’s passing. He shared that while it has been a struggle at times they have indeed been blessed.
“We have been blessed. He has actually left this group in such a unique position; it was almost as if he knew that he would leave us soon. There were certain things that were already in place, not necessarily saying that it was in true transition because there were some things that were a bit challenging at first for the new executive committee to get off the ground and running, but in terms of materials, a shack, obviously membership, there were certain things that were already in place that made it so much easier to pick up the baton and continue. Relationships with certain key individuals, builders out of Nassau, just certain people that we already had; a whole network already around us.
“Really and truly all we had to do was step up to the plate and take the baton and run with it. He was so strong of a leader that even though we were behind the scenes, so to speak, we had no idea how much we have learned from him until now that it was time for us to step up to the plate and actually take on the responsibility of the group. Now, for myself as a co-chairman, we realize now that even though we were behind the scenes there were so many things that we already knew thanks to him. Running the group now is so much easier; almost like a well-oiled machine.
“He showed tough love but through showing that tough love I guess that was his way of motivating us, constantly keeping us on our P’s and Q’s, pushing us to be better and better. All of those things, we could not appreciate in the moment but we definitely can understand it now,” acknowledged Smith.
He continued by stating that following his passing, it was important for them, as a group, to continue, although it was difficult to do so without him being with them in body, however he was and still is, indeed with them in spirit.
“We had the option right after he passed to sit out that first year. That was something that we were thinking about, whether we should sit out and not compete. We obviously decided not to compete, but we did a tribute in honor of him. The reason we did that was because we wanted to keep the group together, so that when we rolled into 2018 strong, one of the main things that we were pushing for was to be a self-sufficient group.
“We obviously realize that sponsorship is hard to come by in Grand Bahama and so we are really pulling the group together, working together and investing in ourselves. In a way, because we have been so active now, it is almost starting to transform the public’s view of the group as well.
“This year has been challenging, I would not say that is has been easy but we have been able to start the initial turn, transforming the mindsets of individuals in the group and now our receptiveness from the public is now different as well.
“Now that there is young leadership there is new, fresh, innovative ideas where when we come out, we come out with unique costumes and different things. We are now in a re-branding stage; that has been out total number one initiative this year, a total revamp, basically coming out with a totally different product. We are still The Classic Dancers but with a totally different vision now,” informed Smith.
Kenneth Ferguson passed away at The Rand Memorial Hospital at the age of 62.