Most people may see Junior Junkanoo as just another form of entertainment. But for the 1,000-plus students who will be taking to the streets in full force at 6 p.m. tomorrow it is an experience that allows them to take charge of preserving their heritage. This year, six pre-schools, four primary schools and six senior schools are scheduled to be at the starting line of the parade, and it is expected to be a fight to the finish.
From Family Island schools to former parade winners, there is nothing that teaches young people to embrace their culture more than this highly anticipated event, says Percy "Vola" Francis, national coordinator of Junior Junkanoo. "This is not just about getting the kids to come out and have fun, it's also about preserving this art form and letting the youth take the reigns.
It's about creating something beautiful while preserving this part of Bahamian culture. "Junkanoo is a serious thing and while the children will have some fun, they will be learning valuable life lessons they probably wouldn't even learn in traditional schools. So I really support Junkanoo as being much more than entertainment or something your child does in their pastime."
The success of anything is to create a continuous system. Any organization or business will come to an end without someone to carry it on. Francis says the continuance of Junkanoo rests in the hearts and in the abilities of the youth. "We have to remember who we are and by supporting our youth, so they become the new breed of Junkanooers, we are teaching them who they are. We as a people are overrun with other cultures which we embrace and in turn forget or put aside our own rich heritage," he says.
"It is events like this that promote the youth that really help us to preserve ourselves for the future generations of Bahamians."
Enthusiastic participants With this in mind Thursday will be a time to get even the littlest Junkanooers out and rushing in style. St. Michael's Methodist Church Pre-school says its little paraders will be rushing under the theme "The health of the nation is the wealth of the nation".
"Our students will be rushing in costumes depicting healthy foods, lifestyles and promoting exercising," says Carolyn Young, the principal. "We really wanted to encourage our students to not only have fun doing a home project with their parents, but also to keep in mind how important it is to stay healthy by making great choices in food and exercise.
"We will have students in fruit costumes, as vegetables, and our little dancers will be milkmaids. We also will be highlighting dengue and how to prevent it by having students dress up as mosquitoes as well. They are having a lot of fun, but there is so much for them to learn that we hope they did while preparing for this big parade."
Woodcock Primary School principal Willamae Bridgewater says this year her students have been working overtime to ensure this year's competition is better than ever. Students spent the summer getting their costumes ready and they took time during the school year in the afternoons to practice for the big day. For many of the students participating in the big parades is not an option, so getting in on this parade is their time to shine.
"We are definitely winning this year. We have about 140 students participating, from grade one to six. It will be a really good show." says Bridgewater. "Our theme this year, 'U.S. and Bahamian governments working together to combat crime' will highlight the ills of criminal activity as well as show that there are other crimes out there like trafficking that most of us don't think of.
"Our participation in the parade will be both educational and entertaining, as the kids will be waving placards outlining drug, human and gun smuggling. It will also be a lot of fun for the kids because they will be able to dress up as their favorite officers like customs, defence force, police and even U.S. officers. It will be a good show I believe."
Champs are confident
The reigning senior division champs, C.R. Walker High School, say this year the prize will remain in their possession, as they will not be blowing their horns or making promises but delivering the goods and showing the public what true junior Junkanooers have to offer.
Ayesha Clear, dance coordinator for the school, says there is much excitement on the hill as it pertains to Junkanoo, and the time spent in the wee hours of the morning will not go to waste, as the school has no doubt that it will take home gold again.
"The theme we will be winning the competition with again this year is 'Celebrating the Youth', and we want to do this because the youth are so important in our country," says Clear. "We will be highlighting the good things and positive activities young people get involved in, whether it be clubs, youth bands or other things. The students will be wearing costumes like debutantes, showstoppers, 'flagettes', cheerleaders or other things young people are in to."
The dance coordinator says she is glad her school gets involved in this parade, because it has made students more interested in being in school and participating in afterschool activities. Normally students can't wait to rush home or leave school early, but preparing for the parade and ensuring students keep up their grades in order to participate in the parade has made participating students more school-oriented. The number of students scheduled to rush this year at the school has doubled since last year, says Clear.
Participating schools this year in the junior parade include: A Mother's Heart Pre-school, 2-by-2 Academy, 1 on 1, St. Michael's Methodist Pre-school, Big Apple Pre-school, and Careful Hands Pre-school for the pre-school division.
Woodcock Primary, Stephen Dillet, Albury Sayle and St. Thomas More will be taking part in the primary school division. C.C. Sweeting, Government High, C.R. Walker, Anatol Rodgers, North Andros High and South Andros District will be in the race in the senior school division.
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