Emancipation Float and street parade to have a ‘motion picture vibe’
150 thousand balloons, classic cars for larger-than-life event
It was as much a sonic as it was a visual experience inside the National Arena last Thursday as carpenters, artisans, technical teams, and creatives were singularly focused on putting together the final pieces of various floats to mount the extravaganza that will hit the streets of Kingston on Emancipation Day.
Holding positions in the arena were a silver aircraft; two doctor birds; oversized breadfruits, bananas, pineapples, papayas, ackees, and melons; wireframes in various stages of readiness; a larger-than-life saxophone and trombone; one of the actual trucks being used for the float parade; and balloons too numerous to count.
Larry Watson, who is in charge of the Jamaica 60 float village at the National Arena, has come a long way from the time when, as a humble carpenter, he worked on floats to celebrate Jamaica’s 25th year of Independence. Watson, having worked on many sets for theatre and stage-managed the Grand Gala for 40 years, has a keen eye for the dramatic, and he is hell-bent on incorporating his cutting-edge techniques into all the moving parts on Emancipation Day.
“This float and street parade has a motion picture kind of vibe, so people are looking for excitement. The theatrical part of it is what causes the drama, and that will be provided in many ways,” Watson said of the larger-than-life event.
He is well in tune with the work that is cut out for him and spoke passionately about Jamaica’s music, agriculture, and culture and how they interface.
“We are blessed with the hummingbird … the vibration of the wings and the humming is an abstract. I believe that there is some rhyme and reason when a musician sits under a tree to write, and there is a hummingbird hovering above him. On the [music] float, we will also have a roll call with names such as Tom the Great Sebastian, Stone Love, Arrows, as well as the words ‘peace, love and unity’ prominently displayed. It’s a preachy kind of float, and we have injected the word ‘respect’ inside the drum, and it should light up when it is beaten. The truth is that we can’t have this peace, love, and unity without respect,” Watson declared.
Giving props to his crew, which includes Judith Turner, an art teacher at The Queen’s School who was working on the doctor birds, and technical team Allan Henry, Gavin Wright, Rohan Gowie, Patrick Richards, and Jerome Marshall, the float designer and maker said,”We’re getting there surely. The pace can’t be slow.”
Among the floats are Sounds of Jamaica, Reap What You Sow, Bridge to Progress, God is Love, Sweet Jamaica, Diamond Heroes, and Crime Stop For Paradise. For the first time in Jamaica, there will be a float that is made up of balloons only. Jackie Jackson from Balloons by JakiJade told The Sunday Gleaner that the float will have close to 150,000 balloons, all of which are biodegradable. As a balloon artiste, she has done floats all over the world and decided that it was time to do one in her own country. She assembled her team, which comprises 12 volunteers, as well as international balloon artists Guido Verhoef, Gary Ledbetter, Tommy McNally, Stacy Wheeler, and Nate Culpepper, who flew into the island specially for this project.
In revealing a little more of what will take place on Emancipation Day, Minister Grange said, “We will have the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Jamaica Defence Force participating as well. We will also have classic cars and bikers.”
Jamaican sound systems such as Stone Love, Renaissance, and Ruff Cut will also participate.
“We are asking people to come out early. It’s a long time since we have been able to have an Independence float and street parade. I am really looking forward to this, and I want to thank the prime minister for insisting on us doing the float and street parade and the minister of finance for finding the additional funds so we could do so,” Grange said.
Watson explained that the float village was divided into three sections with him at the National Arena, Clinton Smith operating in Spanish Town, and Patrick Brown in Red Hills. By now, all the teams should be assembled in high anticipation at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre on Hope Road, ready for the big rollout tomorrow at 10 a.m.
The theme for the float parade is ‘Reigniting a Nation for Peace, Love and Unity’.