Amidst the fun and excitement of yesterday’s Independence Day parade, the occasion was also an historic one as it marked the first parade inspection for President Christine Kangaloo and the first time the procession was commanded by a female military officer.
While 2022 was the first year the parade was held since the COVID-19 pandemic in T&T, several spectators and parade officials believed the turnout was much bigger this year.
From as early as 6 am, families sporting red, white and black clothing, Trinidadian flags, hats and other patriotic-themed accessories trekked to the Queen Park Savannah’s Grand Stand.
Columns of officers from different arms of the protective services were seen assembling on the eastern end of the Savannah adding to the excitement of patrons, who caught glimpses of the officers before the parade began.
Among the families were several elderly spectators who said they looked forward to the parade as it was a long-standing tradition.
One woman who asked to be identified only as Simone told Guardian Media that while the parade returned last year, she did not feel comfortable attending in person because of the prevalence of COVID-19.
“I turned 68 years old last year and I lost a few friends because of the pandemic.
“It always try to come to the parade, but because of COVID and the mixing and mingling in crowds, I didn’t want to come,” she said.
Another woman said she came to the parade with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, noting that it was a tradition spanning multiple generations for her family.
As some spectators found their seats in the Grand Stand, a large crowd of people packed the uncovered area on the western edge of the Savannah as they eagerly awaited the beginning of the parade.
Some of the spectators anticipating the high temperatures walked with large-brimmed hats and umbrellas.
National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds arrived at 7.47 am, followed by the Chief Justice Ivor Archie and the Prime Minister shortly after.
In her first Independence Day parade inspection, President Christine Kangaloo was greeted by loud applause and cheers from spectators.
The parade was led by Captain Kemba Hannays of the Air Guard who arrived on horseback.
Her introduction as the first female parade commander in local history quickly drew raucous applause from the crowd.
With march bands from the Defence Force, Police, Prison and Fire services belting out new and old soca tunes, the crowd grooved to the beat even while seated.
The excitement was not confined to the ground, however, as a fly-past demonstration from helicopters drew excited shouts from the spectators.
But officers were not the sole stars of the parade as members of the Police Canine Unit and the Mounted Branch displayed drills and training alongside their human handlers.
Even after the parade ended, the excitement continued onto the streets of downtown and uptown Port-of-Spain, as families packed the pavements to catch a glimpse of procession.
On Tragarete Road, a fire service tender used in the parade thrilled spectators when it sprayed water in the air, stirring spectators, creating a Carnival-like atmosphere to the beat of the marching bands.
Kangaloo praises country’s gifted daughters and sons
After the parade was concluded, the President, Prime Minister and other senior officials were escorted to the National Academy of the Performing Arts (NAPA) for the annual toast to the nation.
During her remarks, the President paid homage to national icons including artiste Denyse Plummer and author Michael Anthony who died last week.
She said their contributions to T&T’s culture were valuable, adding that they were reminders of the creativity this country was known for.
“They are among the hundreds of gifted daughters and sons who have by their efforts and their courage helped shape and define who and what it means to be a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago.
“No other people on Earth, show the spirit, vitality and hospitality that we show and that combines to make us the unique and distinctive people we are. This is the Trinidad and Tobago we celebrate today 61 years on.
“This is the Trinidad and Tobago I have the signal honour of toasting.
“The Trinidad and Tobago I invite us all today to recommit and in which to reconfirm our undying belief,” said the President.