Bring back Jonkonnu, community floats
Senior reminisces on vibe of Festival yesteryear
There is no missing the excitement and glee in 68-year-old Paulette Jones March’s voice as she relived the joy and fun she had celebrating Independence back in the day..
Dismissing the annual Denbigh Agricultural Show of today, although it has been discontinued due to the COVID-19 pandemic, March said she does not think she is missing much, as for her it was not the same anyway.
“Going to Denbigh as a teenager was a grand thing for me. Oh my, I have never seen goats so big in my life, and the melons and sweet potatoes,” she gushed, as she explained that although they are still in existence, the food items are too heavily fertilised and not as enjoyable as it was then.
Quizzed on how she can tell the difference, March explained that the bananas and sweet potatoes carried a certain taste and quality which are obviously lacking now.
“When you cook bananas, they do not float to the top in minutes; and when you soak the sweet potato in salt water to fry it, it’s not dry, nor is it as sweet as it used to be,” is the explanation given.
When it comes on to the Festival Song Competition, March has little interest in it and for her, it doesn’t have the sound she is looking for.
“Oh my, I enjoy Eric Donaldson, songs like Having A Party (Desmond Dekker’s Intensified) and Oh What A Mini (by Willie Francis). Man, we loved to dance those songs … nowadays songs don’t have that melody,” she shared.
Dressing for the Independence season, March longs for the way it used to be back in the day , as a colour would be announced, and then the outfits would be made in keeping with the choice.
According to her, very few persons would buy ready-made outfits, as only the well to do would purchase theirs. The rest would buy their dress material and take it to their seamstress, sometimes urging them on the eve of Independence to have their outfits ready.
She laughs as she reminisced on the various outfits she wore over the years, like the ‘three-sister’ minidress, palazzo suit, and ‘bell-foot’ pants - and she rushed to remind that it wa not complete without the ‘platform shoes’.
Even before the pandemic hit, March said some of the traditions that would surround Independence celebrations - the floats and Jonkonnu that would bring excitement and fear in the communities.
She was particular excited by the ‘horse-head man’, which would send a lot of children running away in fear. But for her, it was a chance to laugh and just have fun.
Independence Day for March would begin with a whole day at Denbigh, enjoying the food, sights and sound and then walking back to the town of May Pen, as transport was not as popular back then.
“Nuff time we reach home ‘bout five in the di morning and wi parents a quarrel, but we just say we couldn’t get nuh transport and haffi walk. She run wi go bathe and den we come drink wi ‘choclit’ tea and fry dumpling, den go sleep,” she recalled with the ever-present nostalgic smile on her face.
For March, if she could resurrect one thing from back in the day, it would be to allow this generation of children to enjoy the float and Jonkonnu, noting that when the events are hosted at the National Stadium, it limits rural folks from sharing in the experience.