Western Gala: a memorable affair
A 300-drone light display in the form of sprint king Usain Bolt.

SUNDAY'S inaugural staging of the Western Grand Gala was well received by the hundreds of patriotic Jamaicans who sang and danced the evening away under the stars at Harmony Beach Park in Montego Bay, St James.

Part of Jamaica's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, and held under the theme 'Reigniting a Nation For Greatness', the occasion saw people decked in their black, green and gold lining the streets of Montego Bay with their Jamaican flags waving high from as early as 3:00 pm.

The Jamaica 60 Western Float Parade had made its way along Godfrey Dyer Boulevard before the start of the 6:00 pm gala.

Coming off the heels of Saturday's Independence Day celebration at the National Stadium in St Andrew, the Western Grand Gala started with an official welcome by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who, on recognising the magnitude of the occasion, said it could well become a calendar event.

Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment, and Sports Olivia "Babsy" Grange, who was also in attendance, said the Jamaica 60 celebrations are to continue for the rest of the year.

"Our celebration is for one year, so we have lots of things to come. In October we are going to celebrate Heritage Week, [and] we are going to have a whole lot of great things happening. The prime minister will be recognising 60 outstanding Jamaican women and 60 outstanding Jamaican men. We are going to be celebrating Marcus Garvey, our first national hero, and we are going to have one of the biggest revival competitions that you can think of. We are not only going to have the revival in Kingston, but we are going to have the revival right here in Montego Bay," Grange told the audience at Harmony Beach Park.

Like Kingston's Grand Gala the day before, Sunday's event had a 300-drone display which left the audience in awe as it lit up the sky with varied formations, among them cultural icons, including Louise Bennett-Coverley, Bob Marley, Usain Bolt, as well as the national coat of arms, ackee (the national fruit) and the hummingbird (the national bird).

The work of multiple cultural groups were also on display.

Dancehall act Chi Ching Ching was part of the evening's entertainment package. His interactive set saw him leaving the stage and immersing himself in the audience as he performed Way Up, Rope, and Rock Di World. The crowd erupted in excitement when Chi Ching Ching invited Senator Charles Sinclair and Deputy Mayor of Montego Bay Richard Vernon to perform their rendition of the dance Rope.

Speaking with the Jamaica Observer after his performance, Chi Ching Ching said the Western Grand Gala exceeded his expectations and called for younger Jamaicans to explore a deeper appreciation of their culture.

"You know say mi love the energy. The people [were] beautiful, the atmosphere was nice, and mi never waan stop perform. I loved the vibe of the people and I would love to be here to perform again," he told the Observer.

"The youths fi do more research on the country, because some of them don't understand what Jamaica is or even the value of Jamaica. Nuff of the youth dem a lose dem way, so mi just a mek dem know fi focus and know say dem haffi love Jamaica more than anywhere else," he continued.

Gospel singer and winner of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) 2019 Jamaica Gospel Song Competition Joanna Walker also rocked the crowd with her solid rendition of Mercy Chinwo's Excess Love. Her latest single He'll Make A Way also brought patrons to their feet, but nothing could compare to the excitement which came from the audience while she performed her winning JCDC entry Taste and See.

She, too, was thrilled to be a part of the inaugural Western Grand Gala.

"I have been to the Grand Gala in Kingston, but I'm from MoBay, so I am extremely proud to know that we have it right here in the western region. I am also really happy to be a part of the first staging. It was a great experience and I hope to see something like this again. Bringing the family together, especially after the heights of COVID is needed, so I am happy that they chose me to be a part of this great event," said Walker.

Other performances were the vivacious Georgia Henry, Tammi T, the Hatfield Cultural Group, Shantavia Anderson, and the Montego Bay Boys and Girls Club.

A section of the audience attending the inaugural staging of the Western Grand Gala held at Harmony Beach Park in Montego Bay, St James, on Sunday. (Photos: Rochelle Clayton)
Chi Ching Ching (centre) performing in the middle of the audience.
The drones taking the shape of the Hummingbird, the National Bird.
Singer Georgia Henry rocking the crowd with her rendition of Millie Small's My Boy Lollipop.
The Hatfield Cultural Group during its performance at the Western Grand Gala in Montego Bay on Sunday.
Joanna Williams
Dancehall act Chi Ching Ching (right) teaching Government Senator Charles Sinclair (left) and Mayor of Montego Richard Vernon how to do the Rope.
Three hundred drones light up the evening's sky during the Western Grand Gala at the Harmony Beach Park.
Chi Ching Ching

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