Independence Day parade returns

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The Scouts Association of TT, the Military-Led Academic Training Programme, and the Seventh-day Adventist Pathfinders and other groups await inspection at the Independence Day parade at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain, on Wednesday. – Sureash Cholai

A stray dog stole the show at the Independence Day parade at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain when it trotted in front of the audience after a display from the Police Canine Unit.

People cheered for the dogs of the unit as they heeled, sat, crouched and walked at the command of their marching human partners. However, ironically, as the unit was leaving centre stage, a black and brown “pothound” decided to strut back and forth in front of the stands to the amusement of the crowd who laughed and clapped for the stray dog.

The parade in commemoration of 60 years of independence for TT, started promptly at 7.30 am on Wednesday. But just 15 minutes before that, at the main gate of the Grand Stand, there was a large crowd of people with invitations attempting to get inside in time for the start of the event.

Much more orderly was the long line of people waiting to enter and be seated on a first-come-first-served basis in the stands build on the eastern side of the Grand Stand. There were also hundreds of people camped out on “the drag” waiting for the participants to exit the savannah and begin their journey along the parade route.

The parade began with both armed and un-armed contingents marching onto the parade ground where they stood at ease for almost two hours in the hot sun, except when they participated in the march past. Surprisingly, only one person was seen being helped off the ground for medical attention.

There were loud cheers for the detachments of the Scouts Association of TT, the Military-Led Academic Training Programme, and the Seventh-day Adventist Pathfinders.

Spectators at the Independence Day parade at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain, on Wednesday. – Sureash Cholai

Another crowd favourite was the flypast, which consisted of one plane and several helicopters. There was a collective “oooh” when the plane flew from west to east and parents could be seen pointing out the helicopters to their young children as they flew by.

They also seemed to enjoy the trot-past with members of the Mounted Branch, and the precision drill display by the Ministry of National Security Interagency Precision Drill Team. The team, made out of 85 members of various defence force arms, displayed over 2,000 precision moves for about ten minutes while dressed in retro uniforms, including short pants and knee-high socks.

Before the departure of Paula-Mae Weekes, President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, there was a ripple of confusion through the crowd when it was announced there would be explosions during the national anthem. And once the anthem began, there was a general gasp of surprise when the first national salute of 21 guns began.

Asha from St James said she attended because, before the pandemic, it was her habit to do so on Independence Day but she could have done without the gun salute.

Cherisse from Macoya told Newsday she enjoyed the parade, especially the precision drill display, but was disappointed at the “retro” uniforms because she thought the difference between them and the modern uniforms would have been more dramatic.

Pradeep from San Fernando said he woke up at 3 am to arrive with his family at the savannah for 5 am to ensure they got seats. He said, “It’s two years since we had a parade. My five-year-old son can’t even remember when we brought him last time. We couldn’t miss out on this.”

There were many dignitaries present – the TT Prime Minister, the Jamaican PM, Andrew Holness, the acting Chief Justice, Nolan Bereaux, the Minister of National Security, Fitzgerald Hinds, and many other ministers of government. Dr Rowley’s wife, Sharon Clark-Rowley was noticeably not in attendance.

Directly after the event, most moved over to the National Academy for the Performing Arts for the toast to the nation. There, Weekes spoke of her choice of hats for the occasion, welcomed the Jamaican PM and his delegation, and wished the nation a happy independence.