Finally the time had come. The Village was set for six days of exhibition, activities and performances to exude the essence of Jamaica's heritage. Upon arrival patrons were greeted by the aroma of authentic Jamaican cuisine as a makeshift construction of the popular food rest "Faiths Pen" is the first sign of what was expected to be a thrilling Jamaican experience.
As you make your way inside, it becomes evident why all of six days were dedicated to the proceedings of the village, there was much to explore. To the far end of Independence Park, polar to the indoor arena was the section of the village dedicated to children. There were rides and attractions such as storytelling, petting zoo, magicians, face painting and live entertainment on a small stage. This area then leads into a market place with arts and crafts along with other trinkets and accessories up for sale.
On the opposite end is the indoor arena, dubbed Jubilee Hall. Here an assembly of brands and organizations both government-owned and private entities had booths set up. Each booth was elaborately decorated to capture the celebratory theme while still maintaining its own character. From Bob Marley Museum to the Jamaica Defense Force, patrons had much to see and indulge both adults and children alike. Jubilee Hall was also home to daily 'conversations' with guest panelists in the likes of Mutabaruka and The Most Hon. Edward Seaga who engaged in meaningful discussions on topical issues related to Jamaica's past, present and the prospects for the future. The 'Piano Bar' was also in-door with live music and poetry recital.
Back on the outside main sponsors of Jamaica 50; Victoria Mutual, J. Wray and Nephew, Red Stripe, Lime and KFC mounted booths as well. Located on the outside was also the Parish Square which featured exciting and informative displays of the offerings of Jamaica's 14 parishes. It was the outdoor 'Big Stage' however that really attracted massive attention. Jamaica 50 secretariats planned a series of entertaining themed shows to capture the different facets of Jamaica. From opening night patrons are treated to blasts from the past as performers revive old time traditions of Jamaican heritage, dances inspired by African roots, Folk tales and theatre. Jamaica Praise Showcase was dedicated to gospel and worship, as religion and spirituality is known to be a major part of the Jamaican people. Homage was paid to the evolution of Jamaican music from Folk to Ska, Mento and the most recent forms Reggae and Dancehall. The Jolly Boys, Nadine Sutherland, Leroy Sibbles, Tessanne Chin, Romain Virgo and Aidonia were among the many performers. A fashion show which featured some of the island's top designers and the World Reggae Dance Competition were also a part of the Big Stage entertainment package. Due to inclement weather conditions Day 5's activities were cancelled and the village closed under threats of tropical storm Ernesto. The next day would be the big day, Jamaica's Independence Day and the Grand Gala.
With seemingly clear skies, Day 6 proceeded as planned. Activities from the previous day were sandwiched into the day's program so that patrons would still get an all-round entertainment package as planned. Seas of black, green and gold flowed unto the grounds of Independence Park. As patrons moved about the village, the anticipation for the Grand Gala began to mount. Soon entrances to the stadium became fraught with thousands of eager patriots, ready to celebrate their nation's anniversary. By minutes after 6pm diplomats and government officials began to make their special entrance into the stadium one by one, among them the Most Hon. Portia Simpson-Miller, Prime Minister of Jamaica, The Hon. Jacob Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa and Former United States Secretary of State, General Colin Powell.
After the formalities were address the show was on its way! The events possessed the different elements of Jamaica's heritage which were showcased on the Big Stage previously. In acknowledging the Jamaican motto, 'Out of Many One People", homage was paid to the three major ethnic groups that make up our population, African, Chinese and Indian, with spectacles that hailed from their respective country of origin. The Rastafarian community was also highlighted as important contributors to Jamaica's history and culture, so too were the Maroons. A heart- felt tribute to the late Ms. Lou, Jamaica's first lady of comedy, a folklorist and poet among other things. The tribute also celebrated our distinctiveness as a people, something we should embrace as Ms Lou taught us. The variations of dance and music forms that colour our culture were represented throughout several performances. A salute from the skies in honor of Jamaica 50 came from the Jamaica Defense Force which was complimented by uniformed groups (JA Cadets, Boys Scout, The Fire Brigade etc.). The stadium, packed to capacity, receptively waved their flags and blew horns all night, highly entertained and spirited with national pride. The Gala came to an end with a brilliant fireworks show which could even be seen by those in the vicinity who didn't come out for the Gala.
Of course, in true Jamaican fashion, the night did not end there. Patrons were invited back to the Big Stage for the after party where even more performances were slated to take place from popular Jamaican acts including Yellow Man, Voicemail, Queen Ifrika and Tony Rebel.
Overall the Jamaica 50 Golden Jubilee Village and Grand Gala can be declared a success. With each day the villagers grew in numbers and so too did the patriotism. From collectively watching our athletes bring home gold at the Olympics, to watching the premiere of the official video for the Jamaica 50 theme song "On a Mission" and the 'One People' documentary, Jamaicans shared a once in a life time experience with each other. Despite glitches, the Jamaica 50 secretariat and government officials managed to pull off a splendid exposition of Jamaica in all her golden glory.