Several attendees shared their views on this year’s Independence Ceremony Monday (July 8) evening, which was held on the Independence Park.
This year the entertainment took on an island hopping themed style, giving attendees an opportunity to view performances and culture from Islands in the North, West and Central Bahamas.
Although many residents were not happy about the date change for the celebration, there were the positives that outweighed the negatives.
Kevin Tomlinson was delighted for the presence of the Governor General His Excellency Cornelius A. Smith and Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, but was not pleased in the festival’s entertainment led by foreigners.
“I am really respectful of the fact that the Governor General and the prime minister and so much of the Cabinet Ministers are here in Grand Bahama,” he said. “And, I think, given that what Grand Bahama is going through, showing this sensitivity and giving this attention is a good motivating factor for the community.
“However, I am a little disappointed when I saw, on stage, so many Jamaican teachers directing our children in a Bahamian Independence Celebration.
“This is my third year, I think, witnessing this and I have been working with the Grand Bahama Youth Choir since 2009 and I never got a call to work,” he said.
“There are other music teachers and professionals who are Bahamians on this island producing great work with young people. Tell me why I don’t see them on this stage.
“I know I can’t do it in Jamaica. If I go to Jamaica, will the Jamaicans allow me to direct their students on stage as a Bahamian?” he questioned. “But this is where our culture needs to be stronger and I have no problems with the Jamaican teachers, they are all friends of mine and I respect them and their work, but the reality is, I want to see our Bahamians being represented in every area, even if it isn’t me.
“We have talented, qualified persons who can demonstrate a high level of workmanship.”
Raquel Beneby-Hart said, “I am very excited about Independence, because for the first time, historically, we are now in the presence of our Governor General and prime minister celebrating Independence with us this year.
“That is a big deal for us to be able to embrace their presence as well as the number of Cabinet Ministers.
“This shows there is keen interest in Grand Bahama and we are excited this is happening a day ahead. We are in the north, starting in the north and ushering in the celebration of Independence.”
Watching the ceremony in the VIP section, Derek King was happy the weather cleared.
“Earlier today we had a lot of rain and persons, basically, thought it was going to rain tonight; but fortunately, it didn’t and it turned out to be a very beautiful evening.
“I came here around 7:00 p.m. and I see the crowd getting larger and larger as the night goes on. The performances are very good. We have some talented young Bahamians; people are enjoying themselves, food is good. It is a night of culture and I think the organizers should be commended,” he said.
Miss University of The Bahamas, Lydia Cooper said, “Tonight was filled with Bahamian culture. I was so impressed to see the number of people that came out tonight.
“It shows how patriotic we are as a country and I know that a lot of Bahamians will continue to celebrate, as we move forward in Independence and continue to grow towards being an independent country.
“I have had a great time listening to Bahamian music, eating Bahamian food and just celebrating with other Bahamians. So far I am having a great time.”
Local artist Benjamin Ferguson Jr., noted that everything was nice.
When asked on what he thought the ceremony can add to make the production better for next year, Ferguson suggested better sound quality.
First time attendee, Virgil Dawkins said the birth of her son initiated her visit at the independence ceremony.
“Out here is nice, this is a real Bahamian ceremony.
“I never wanted to come out to an Independence Ceremony. But I think now that I am a mother and I have my son, I think this is something that he has to grow in.
“I want him to grow up knowing what our culture is all about and be aware of the different entertainments,” she added.
Visitor, Wendi Chevalier and her family said they enjoyed the ceremony and the delicious Bahamian food.
“I love it; this is nice. The food is great, lots of different options, the entertainment is good and I liked the way they include the kids, it’s like a big family up there.”
Former politician Kenneth Russell shared, he wishes to see the ceremony start later than the beginning time. However, he expressed, it is a time of camaraderie and togetherness.
“Independence Ceremony is normally the same every year, except this year we have present the prime minister, the Governor General and Ministers of Cabinet.
“The culture and festivities tonight are simply great, and they are showcasing Bahamian artists, they are also going from one end of The Bahamas to the next in their cultural display. So, at the end of the day persons who don’t know will now know what The Bahamas is all about.
“Independence is always a good time to bring people together; it brings camaraderie among Bahamians, so that we all can be working towards the same goal in helping the country move forward in the best way possible.
“I would like to see the service start at 9 o’clock and end at 12,” suggested Russell.
Minister of National Security, Marvin Dames said, “Out here is great. You also have a tremendous contingent from Nassau – Members of Parliament and Cabinet Ministers, including the prime minister and of course, the Governor General.
“But in addition to all of this, all of the persons here from Grand Bahama, the young kids and the parents … it is tremendous. The performances have been nothing short of spectacular and it is always great when you can come to something like this and you see the young, the not so young and everyone has a role to play.”
He continued, “Certainly, the theme was fantastic, the representation from the Southern Bahamas on to the Central Bahamas onto the Northern Bahamas, and now as I speak to you we are in the gospel segment in the programme.
“Out here is great, I am enjoying it and I love Grand Bahama. It is special to me and it is always great to be back here celebrating with the wonderful people. I feel at home.”
Freeport Bible Church Senior Pastor, Kyle Maycock expressed, “I think tonight was a wonderful production. It was very well put together. This is always an exciting time to come together as a people and celebrating what God has done for us and in us.
“I think there’s a good vibe out here. We’re having a good time and we are looking forward to more acts, entertainment and spirituality. This is a friendly family environment, who could ask for a better night.”