During the official ceremony to launch the 63rd Emancipation Festival last evening, speaker after speaker urged residents to allow peace to reign throughout the festivities that will end August 12.
“During the festivities, enjoy yourselves, but do so responsibly,” Premier Dr D Orlando Smith told persons at the Festival Village in Road Town. “We live in an environment which is relatively crime free. We have zero-tolerance for crime. We urge you to let us work together to continue to live in a peaceful environment and enjoy a safe festival.”
Premier Smith further implored residents to recognize the ‘rich African and Caribbean heritage’ that exists in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).
He added, “As we celebrate emancipation, let us reflect on the past to draw inspiration and look forward to the future with optimism as we continue the BVI’s progress and evolution.”
“Let me reassure you that my government will continue to develop our national pride, and will remain committed to building a better Virgin Islands for all of us to enjoy,” Premier Smith further said.
Similar sentiments came from the minister responsible for culture, Myron Walwyn, who appealed for everyone to throw their support behind the festival.
“This emancipation, I invite us to embrace our culture as well as our brothers and sisters who have come to live among us and continue to contribute towards our economic and social growth,” he said.
Walwyn continued: “I encourage everyone who is able to participate in the festival celebrations, and to thank those who have already committed to doing so… I want to admonish all of us to enjoy the festivities, but to do so under the confines of the law.”
Walwyn also used the opportunity to laud a number of organizations and persons such as Trefor Grant, who recently was appointed Chairman of the Virgin Islands Festival and Fairs Committee.
“I am saying to you, Mr Grant, I am very pleased with the hard work, efficiency, and professionalism that you and your team have exhibited in planning and executing our emancipation celebrations,” Walwyn said.
Grant, in the meantime, noted that it takes a lot of ‘hard’ work to put on the festivities. He noted that the organizers are not paid for their service.
“We do this because festival is dear to our hearts. We all work, we all have jobs, we all have families, but we sacrifice to make sure that you as well as all of us have a wonderful emancipation celebration.”
“I want you all to enjoy the emancipation festivities that we put on for you. Be respectful, be safe, and be festive,” Grant said.
Meanwhile, before the symbolic ribbon was cut to signify the opening of the festival, two persons were awarded for their contribution to the annual festival.
They are the late Neil Blyden, and representative of the Sixth Electoral District Alvera Maduro-Caines.
“I think the only thing in festival that I have not been involved in is owning a booth. And that’s by choice,” Maduro-Caines told the relatively small gathering.
She added, “It’s time for the younger people to take over from where we have left off, but I am always available, and always ready to help when it comes to my festival and my BVI.”
Maduro-Caines was received a plaque in recognition of her contribution. A similar presentation was made to Janice Nibbs-Blyden, on behalf of her late husband.
Nibbs-Blyden shared a captivating – sometimes comical story of her husband’s incredible journey through many fields – from events promotion, to music, and his radio station ZVCR FM.
“He (Neil Blyden) meant so many things to so many different people in the Virgin Islands,” she noted.
“Most of all, I think he was a cultural icon. He made sure that BVI culture was represented in any way that he could.”
Nibbs-Blyden further explained what her husband would have wanted to see happen during this festival, had he been alive. “He wants us to enjoy this year’s festival. He wants us to make the parade the best that it could be. He wants us to make everything larger than life because that was Neil.. He is not here, but I want this village to make it feel like he is here – that everything here is going to be pulsating and invigorating.”
The theme for this year’s festival celebration is: A colorful kaleidoscope to be seen, creating a cultural scene for festival 2017.
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