Grand Gala 2018, Where Jamaica Celebrated 56 Years of Independence

If Jamaica was a human being, then she (or he) would be middle-aged. But of course, in the scheme of things s/he is relatively young. 56? Just a “spring chicken.” Well, although rather mature chickens ourselves, we made our way last night to the National Stadium to get a feel for the Grand Gala, the annual celebration of Jamaica’s Independence. The last time we visited the Stadium (and this was many years ago) was a very difficult experience. This time, we faced up to the crowds and ventured out.

The Grandstand was starting to fill up when we arrived at around five o’clock. By the time we left, after seven (by which time, we were cracking under the strain of the vuvuzelas) people were sitting on the steps, and the stadium was completely full. As we went to the car, we noticed hundreds lining up to enter. Surely no more Jamaicans could be packed in!

We enjoyed ourselves. My husband took his first-ever selfie, which I did not know I was included in until afterward. Two seven-year-old girls, identical twins sat next to their grandmother, who clapped and swayed. Their grandfather shouted to friends on the phone that Yes, they got grandstand tickets, and Yes, we reach, and Yes, it start already. A small boy next to me focused silently on the consumption of several highly-colored packets of food and drink. Many of our neighbors seemed familiar with the ritual of Grand Gala, which involved blowing on vuvuzelas, waving flags, or simply yelling at certain points. When the Prime Minister and his wife arrived, the teenage girl behind me let out a piercing scream. A puff of fireworks in one corner of the stadium elicited similar squeals of excitement.

As we left, the night was still young and the crowds swelling. The pan chicken was starting to smell good, and the vendors with their igloos were out in force. As a thick, warm dusk descended, it was good to be celebrating…Jamaica, and life.

Here are a few photos I took. I hope they give you a feel of the evening. Hold the mouse over the photos for captions!

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