During the evening of July 9, the 40th Anniversary of Independence Cultural Extravaganza brought a large crowd to the Murphy Town Park soccer field, where a decorated stage and several tents had been set. Two large tents offered shelter and seats, and included a section for the dignitaries, among them Administrator Preston Cunningham, Permanent Secretary of State, Alexander Flowers and District Superintendent of Education, Dr. Lenora Black..
The evening included music from gospel bands, solo singing, rake n’scrape and popular calypso and goombay rhythms. Around 9:00 p.m., Sandra Edwards began the evening performances, and beautifully sang the National Anthem and “This Land is my Land.”
Then, announced by dynamic MC Shelley Austin, the various church bands, including the Latter Rain Praise Team, the New Vision Band, Genesis, Kevin Sawyer and his group, climbed to the stage in turn, anointing the crowd with many well-known religious songs.
Singing was followed by dancing. The Change Ministries Praise Dancers, some dressed in black with a yellow and blue sash, two dressed in white while waving the 40th anniversary flags, performed on the grass. Later on, the grass also became the stage for the Abaco Foundation Cultural Camp youth group performances. Introduced by Sonia Roberts, eight girls in black tops and white skirts draped in a yellow or blue sash, danced to old-fashioned songs. The act concluded with two boys joining them in dancing to the tune of “Back to Balemina,” with panama hats on their heads and the girls holding baskets.
While on the stage, Mrs. Roberts commented on the meaning of the anniversary.
“After forty years, it is time to reflect on the past. It is not too late to make changes. By now, we should know what works and what does not.”
There were two special performers: Viola Johnson with her grater and knife, who interpreted a rake n’s scrape version of “Old Time Religion.” Yasmin Glinton, an Abaco Central High School teacher on the way of becoming a popular local actress, acted out a short skit, which was written by her.
After that, the rhythm changed. Gospel was replaced by lively calypso and goombay with performances by T-Time band, Funk Creations Group and Rum Hill Band, the latter interpreting a rendering of “Happy Birthday Bahamas.”
As the evening progressed, the crowd increased and by 11:00 p.m., the soccer field was filled with people, some grouped around the stage, others hanging around the food and bar tents.
Members of the four units of the Bahamian Police, Immigration, Customs and the Royal Defense Force Cadets made their appearance. Preceded by a the National Anthem, they started marching across the field, each unit in its parade uniform. Two policemen holding flags stopped in front of the flag pole and the dignitaries, who now included Mr. Renardo Curry, MP for North Abaco.
Each unit led by its commander performed a marching manoeuver, and MP Curry solemnly inspected each division, before returning to his position in front of the pole, from where he addressed the assembly, reminiscing on the historical moments that led to the independence and, “freedom for all.”
An unfortunate mistake had been made and instead of the Flag, a decorative bunting was raised. After a few moments the bunting was removed and the real Flag was raised.
Afterwards a display of fireworks lit the skies, heralding the dawn of July 10. A Junkanoo rush followed.