MONTEGO BAY, St James — Montego Bay's staging of the Jamaica Diamond Jubilee Float Parade on Sunday left patrons calling on the Government to make the second city a part of the country's annual Independence Day celebrations.
Excited residents and tourists lined the streets of Montego Bay, with their cameras in hand, to secure their memories of the first-ever float parade on this side of the island. The parade, which started along the Godfrey Dyer Boulevard and ended at Harmony Beach Park, was well-received among both the old and young in the city.
Montegonian woman Sharon Jarrett told the Jamaica Observer that she was thrilled to have experienced this "next-level" Independence celebration in the western region.
"This is great! It is not often that we get to see and celebrate our own lives and history so it was kind of cute to see the transitions; then we got to see the fruit basket. It has been a long time we haven't come together to celebrate anything," she said.
Jarrett continued while walking during the parade, "This is what we need. This is what warms the hearts and makes us feel human again. There is no segregation, it is just oneness and love. This is just Jamaicans being Jamaicans."
For 26-year-old Vanessa Williams this was the first time she was seeing a float parade. She was thrilled to witness this celebration of her culture in her city and was sure to take her young nephew to also enjoy the float parade.
"I like the excitement and I am enjoying myself right now…I love seeing everyone coming out and having fun. It is really a privilege to have it here in Montego Bay because watching it on TV, I have always wanted to see what it is like," she told the Observer.
"It is also the first time my nephew is going to behold something like this so I wanted him to get the full experience," Williams added.
Keisha Earl, an excited resident who was seen dancing along the Godfrey Dyer Boulevard during Sunday's parade, is calling on the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport to make Montego Bay's Western Grand Gala a yearly activity.
"They need to make this a part of the yearly celebrations because these are the things that our kids need to see and learn. We have a new generation of children who have never really seen things like this before so we need to preserve our culture in this way. Plus, it is also a nice experience. This is not my first time seeing a parade but it is my first time seeing it in Montego Bay. I am so excited; I just wish my kids were here to see it as well," the woman told the Observer.
Mayor of Montego Bay Leeroy Williams also welcomed the first staging of the Western Grand Gala in the second city. The mayor hinted that Montego Bay may become home to Jamaica's second yearly Independence parade.
"It was very good. I think the people wanted and liked it very much. I am sure it will be repeated next year; there is a strong possibility that we could have one. It is just a pity that we didn't have more people on the front page, but it came at such short notice so we did not get a chance to mobilise the amount of people we would [have liked] to," said Mayor Williams.
In addressing patrons shortly after the float parade, Prime Minister Andrew Holness vowed that Montego Bay will join Kingston's annual float parade as the Government moves "to see the development of the country".
"My interest, however, is to see both our cities grow as centres of culture, centres of lifestyle, [and] centres of commerce. I am here today to say that I am very happy to see the civic energy in Montego Bay put on an event like this, and I want to commend the municipal authority…the members of parliament…the churches who have played an integral role in this," said Prime Minister Holness.