Football, floats, art, prayer and senior citizens—the Port-of-Spain City Corporation has chosen an eclectic mix of activities to celebrate T&T’s 50th anniversary of Independence. The corporation has been celebrating since May and is planning to continue until November. According to a 2000 census, Port-of-Spain has a population of over 49,000 people and five times that number enter the city daily to work. Port-of-Spain Mayor Louis Lee Sing says he feels it is important that the month of August isn’t crowded, so he spread the events throughout the year and left space for any activities planned by the Government to celebrate T&T’s Independence. Lee Sing says the city corporation is much more than garbage collection. Tomorrow the city has planned a day of prayer for the nation. “The corporation will call on the entire nation to dedicate time to give praise and thanks for T&T.”
Lee Sing says the city corporation will lead off prayers at Woodford Square and is asking every house of worship, not only within the city limits but in the entire country, to join in at noon and to end by offering up a joyful noise. “We want them to beat their drums, we want people in their cars to blow their horns. We want to have a full minute of good vibrations going out to this country.” The prayer is scheduled to end at 12.30 pm. A national prayer will be distributed to the public through newspapers and on the day of the event. “We understand that we have a diversity of religions in this country, so we are asking everyone, regardless of their religion, to send out as much positive vibrations as they can,” Lee Sing said. The city’s celebrations began with an ongoing small-goal football tournament in all of its districts, which began in May. The finals will be held in King George V Park. Lee Sing said the football was one of the things that united areas in the city.
“On a night when people came to watch the game, even warring factions within the city would come, with their rhythm sections and their coolers, and everybody would have a good time.” A senior citizens’ brunch has been planned for August 24, to honour and interact with people who would have witnessed T&T’s independence firsthand. Citizens over 65 are being invited to the brunch, which will take place at Jackson Square in St Clair. A steelband parade and jamboree are scheduled for the following day in east Port-of-Spain. “We are taking pan back to its roots, with a parade from Belmont Circular to the Piccadilly Greens on August 25, and we will have a pan festival that will include a competition in Laventille in September.” Lee Sing says the city’s programmes are intended to reach deep into the communities. Another competition being held in honour of T&T’s Independence encourages Port-of-Spain residents to win prizes by decorating their homes for Independence Day. “They must incorporate the colours red, white, black and gold, and participants can win prizes like a paint job for their house, dining set and barbecue pit. We have applications here at City Hall and we are just encouraging people to show their love for their country.”
Lee Sing says there is also a competition for the best decorated business in the city—although, he adds, he is not too optimistic about it. “They have just been putting a few streamers that will come down minutes after August 31 has passed,” he said.
The City Day parade, traditionally held in June, was postponed so it could be incorporated in Independence celebrations and will be held instead on September 21. “It begins at Memorial Park and ends at Adam Smith Square. This parade is no longer just a military drill but a demonstration of what the city is about. It is intended to open up the city corporation to burgesses, so that they can interact and know the different councillors.” The corporation has also planned the Mayor’s Charity Ball to be held on October 27. Tickets for the ball are priced at $1,000 and all proceeds go toward the corporation’s charitable obligations.
“People come to the corporation every day and they need books for their children, they need food and this is what we would use the money raised at this event for,” said Lee Sing. There will be “city ride” (bicycle ride through the city) by residents along with the Port-of-Spain corporation. An art exhibition, where art will be selected from artists who reside in Port-of-Spain, also forms part of the list of activities scheduled by the corporation and Lee Sing says he is looking forward to the public’s participation in celebrating this moment in T&T’s history. Lee Sing said the corporation got a positive response from the community so far.
“Even last week Thursday, we got a surprise when former prime minister Patrick Manning attended one of the football games and commented on the positive reactions from the communities,” said Lee Sing.