Is it Empire day?…Nope. Is it Victoria day?…Nope.
24th of May, a.k.a. Bermuda Day, it is…
When I stretch my mind back as far as I can take it, my earliest memories of 24th of May is are of just being happy for another holiday away from school. Falling just perfectly after Good Friday and Exhibition Friday. Yet another day of not having to get up and polish shoes and iron my shirt.
I recall listening to the road race on the radio in the morning and then packing the family car with all forms of food to head up to National Stadium, to then unpack same foods, to then find the family spot amongst all other 1,000 or so other family spots.
Up at National Stadium, there was a feeling of one big happy family. As a kid I could walk around freely and get stopped at any given time to be offered a variety of food or drink. Heck, we were even given a fifty cent coin here and there, which we then took out to buy treats at the various stalls around the perimeter of the field.
The big boys would be at the top of the hill doing their thing, while the rest of us would be running around the hill or field chasing the floats as they came in.
After the event was over, we would jump on the Choy Aming float and dance to calypso / soca music all the way back to Clay House.
Somewhere around the mid-1980s, Bermuda Day became a major fashion show for teenagers who needed to make sure to have a “new press” in order to go out. Heaven forbid you didn’t come out with at least a new shirt or hat, you’d be regarded as “mug” for the rest of your natural high school life.
Modelling and folking out up at National Stadium was the order of the day. The time for walk around asking for fifty cent pieces was long gone. It was all about tryna get votes with girls and maybe a few phone numbers here and there.
Then somewhere in the late-1980s somebody had the wise idea of redeveloping National Stadium and destroying the tradition of watching the floats come in along Montpelier Road and all other traditions that went along with National Stadium.
To be honest, it took the winds out of many persons’ sails as Bernard’s Park seemed so, let’s just say, “mug” compared to National Stadium.
Over the last few years, the Bermuda Day parade has evolved from Bernard’s Park to the streets of Hamilton where you know exactly where to find any given family, because, for the last decade or more, they all have staked out their spots for weeks in advance.
With that being the case, I found myself reverting back to my younger days of walking around to different people’s camps getting offered all forms of food and “big boy” drinks. One literally can come to town without a dime in their pocket and never go hungry or thirsty on that day.
Today, with the addition of a number of Soca trucks, there seems to be that much more emphasis on Bermudians freeing up themselves and letting loose.
Last year in particular I had a pleasant surprise in that one of my “cousins” from Spanish Point took herself and her children to Front Street for the very first time and claimed she had a great time.
What was surprising was that she, like many other Bermudians, usually spends her Bermuda Day holiday vacation out on the water. Over the years, she and I have had vigorous debates about why is it that on a day when we should be celebrating Bermudian unity we are so divided as a community.
She has invited me on many occasions to come out on the water and see things from that angle. Likewise, I have invited her to come and see the parade.
I put is to her like this
Think about it going around getting free food and drinks. Listening to soca and reggae all day,watching people in their latest fashions,connecting with people you have not seen in person for a while,following the Gombeys then following the Soca trucks.
Hmm, maybe this year I get her to follow one of the Soca trucks or dance with the Gombeys.
Damn who would not want to come to Hamilton for Bermuda day?