By William Ysaguirre
Hundreds of Belizean patriots braved unseasonably hot, dry weather to celebrate the 217th anniversary of the Battle of St. George’s Caye last Thursday, September 10, in the tradition of Simon Lamb, who caused it to be declared a national and public holiday on the centenary of the battle.
In Belize City, festivities kicked off with the annual Tenth of September ceremony, at which the Governor General Sir Colville Young first inspected a guard of honor mounted by the Belize Defense Force.
After the invocation, Mayor Darrell Bradley reminded those present, and the national radio audience, of the bravery of the 14 free colored men of Flowers Bank who carried the vote to stay and defend this land against the Spaniards.
This was in spite of the fact that the Spaniards had won the day and routed the Baymen on several previous occasions, often carrying off several of the settlers in chains. The resolve of the Baymen and their courage carried the day, and gave us today our homeland by the Caribbean Sea.
Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation Manuel Heredia Jr, in his capacity as Chairman of the September Celebrations Committee, then gave the keynote address in which he focused on a similar theme, noting also the arrival of successive waves of immigrants which give Belize the multicultural society we have today.
The highlight of the ceremony was the crowning of the new Queen of the Bay, Miss Falon Cain of Stann Creek. The outgoing Queen, Monisha Stuart, urged Falon to rule wisely over the hearts of the Bay as she gave Falon the Scepter of office, then sashed her, wrapping her in the Queen’s royal robe, and finally crowning her as Queen.
Creole culture advocate and artist Myrna Manzanares then entertained with a Creole skit which featured a dance troupe and a group of drummers.
With the conclusion of the ceremony, the Governor General, Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega, Special Envoy for Women and Children Mrs. Kim Simplis-Barrow, and leader of the Opposition Francis Fonseca all greeted the new Queen as they departed. The Queen’s entourage included Miss Barrier Reef Shanya Garnett, Miss St. George’s Caye Angelique Straker, Miss Belize City Courtney Staine, and Miss Black Orchid Kiyarah Austin, as well as the visiting Queen of the Bay from New York.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington shed all trappings of his office as he took up a tuba and joined the Imperial Band in leading the Citizens’ Parade which followed. Many other government ministers, Belize City Councilors and other public officials joined the lead group of the parade, which also had a lively representation from the Collet Youth Popular Front.
The Samuel Haynes Institute Band provided an additional lively tempo for other revelers who followed. The Calypso Tours train provided transport for the reigning Miss “Y” and other former Miss “Y”s, as well as for the Queen of the Bay and her entourage.
Several bicycle owners had also revived an old tradition of converting their bikes into two-wheeled floats, while larger floats from the Belize Tourism Board, Ministry of Education, National Sports Council and Income Tax Department followed. Many more revellers, full of the holiday spirit joined the parade as it followed the traditional route down North Front Street, over the Bel-China Bridge into Cemetery Road, Orange Street and Albert Street to finish at the Yarborough Green; where the Belize City Council had organized its annual multi-cultural fair.
Kenny Gladden and his band on the final float then parked at eastern end of the green, where the float served as the main stage for musical entertainment that continued into the evening; as revellers imbibed more of the holiday spirit and savored a variety of cultural cuisine.