35th Independence Anniversary Celebrations are well underway, according to the committee charged with the task of organizing this year’s festivities. The group, comprised of Darrel Montrope, Cabinet Secretary, Sergeant Joseph from the Traffic Department of the Royal St Lucia Police Force, Drenia Frederick representing the Cultural Development Foundation, Philip Sydney from the Ministry of Agriculture and Christopher Hunte of the Ministry of Tourism, Heritage and Creative Industries gathered on Thursday morning to share what locals can expect for this milestone. Montrope believes that this year’s event will have its own identity while giving a nod to the past.
“Independence for some is a political activity but it is truly a moment to celebrate our sovereignty. And for 35 it will be a celebration with a difference,” he said. “We have as an independence committee reflected on the feedback we have received over the years and tried to make it more inclusive. For previous years we certainly asked for greater decentralization, and this is continuing for which we are very proud and happy. In fact I need to say something about Independence 34 even before we go into 35. The calls we made for Independence 34 to celebrate our creativity were certainly realized. We saw that in the fashion, we saw that in the graphics, and that was a discovery for me as to how well St Lucians can respond to the call. And so this year I expect St Lucians to respond to the theme which is ‘In Unity and Dedication for the Good of the Nation.’ So Independence 35 is about us celebrating ourselves, our achievements, together for that national progress.”
While some of the activities remain the same, the nature of the activities will certainly be different. This year the focus will be squarely on February 22. One of the newest features is the plan to transform a certain part of St Lucia into what will be dubbed ‘Independence City’ and that will be the Beausejour Cricket Grounds.
Why the BCG? Montrope explained: “Because persons have said, at least various communities, incorrectly I might add, that on independence day there is no activity for them to celebrate. But that is not quite accurate. At least I don’t think the record will show that because in all of the communities throughout the island on independence day they’ve had various activities. But the nation was not focused on them. So this is a definite departure for us. This year we have decided that Beausejour will become independence city so most activities will be at that location. And that day will be a fun-filled and exciting one for all St Lucians.”
The shortest month of the year will be brimming with activities, starting off with the usual school celebrations. This year all of the schools have been encouraged to host their
own activities, celebrating through exhibitions, decorations, and even community service. On the actual day locals can expect the customary military parade, a national celebratory rally, a culinary extravaganza, inspired by the recent success of Nina Compton on Bravo’s Top Chef, a dance festival, the Miss Independence Pageant, ecumenical service, cultural exhibitions and a musical concert. Sports will definitely factor in with the National Awards on February 15th and the Athletics Championships from the 16th-17th. One of the more noteworthy events is the prime minister’s panel, which will feature all of the nation’s living PM’s reflecting on their tenure in office. Those in attendance were privy to a first listen of the official jingle for Independence 2014. This February will also see the big reveal of the long-awaited monument of Sir John Compton, who guided the country into independence in 1979.
Montrope is urging St Lucians to put aside their party affiliations and participate with the same loyalty and gusto in the upcoming events. Hunte echoed that sentiment, adding that their aim is to develop the same passion for the country, that was evidenced during the ‘Nina Nation’ hysteria.
“The goal this year was to make sure that we turn the corner once and for all, get people out of their homes, get them to come out and to show not only the world, but ourselves, that we have something we are proud of. We can never be more American than Americans, more Grenadian than Grenadians, but we damn sure can be more St Lucian than any other people in the world. In keeping with that we’ve come up with a program that allows us to celebrate the past, inculcate the future, and have sort of a marriage, making a cogent statement which is supposed to let people know that this pride is not just about independence. This is a year long thing. We are going to be nuclear when it comes to pride from now on.”