Antigua's Independence Day is celebrated on November 1st each year. Leading up to the big day, there are several National events which take place including church services around the island, street parades and steel pan competitions. One of the largest activity which involves thousands of Antiguans each year however, is the National Youth Rally, and to acknowledge the 32nd Independence Day for the year 2013, the locals attended in great numbers.
The venue was the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium, and the youths were marching in their various school uniforms around the field. Eventually they would arrive in front of a podium upon which a dignitary would be waiting to receive an 'eyes right' salute. A marching band of policemen were stationed on the ground with drums, trumpets and other instruments, providing the music for the event.
Students from over 70 public and private schools within the small twin island state came together to demonstrate their sense of pride, their unity and their competitiveness to outshine the others. The schools were separated into a Primary and a Secondary section, based on the need for adult supervision for the younger children.
The National Youth Rally started with everyone standing at attention for the National Anthem. Afterwards, there were a few introductory speeches and some performances such as a Karate skit before the marching began.
The Primary School children started off the rally by marching around the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium. It was a wonderful sight to see such little ones looking trim and tidy in their uniforms of various colours and designs. Their tiny feet pounded the grass and their arms swung at their sides as they showed off their school spirit for the entire country to see. Although they weren't exceptionally well co-ordinated at all times, I was touched by their effort to show their support on such an important day.
The Secondary School students were next. They were in perfect formation, in tune and delivered their salutes with style. While some schools only gave the basic salutation, others did a small special display before executing the 'eyes right'. Other schools even fell to their knees or bowed before doing the same. It was obvious that these young people had practiced for weeks before the big day, as their performances flowed flawlessly.
After all of the schools left the grounds, it was time for the Special Drills competition. Three Secondary schools (The Antigua Girls High School, The All Saints Secondary and the Christ the King High School) competed to take home the Number 1 title. Each school did a set of marches to a mix of beats, performed various snazzy moves and ultimately tried their very best to keep formation. In the end the Antigua Girls High School was named the victor.
The final activity at the National Youth Rally was a cheerleading competition between approximately seven different schools. The students were donned in brightly coloured outfits, matching gloves or pom poms and delivered a variety of dance steps and gravity defying jumps and pyramids. It was really fun to watch each performance and to hear the roar in the observation stands when something really breathtaking took place.
Overall, the Antiguan National Youth Rally is a major event which incorporates both the young and old. Parents and grandparents showed up in the stands to support their loved ones, and the youths look forward to putting on a show each year. The future of a nation depends heavily on its younger generation and based on this years Youth Rally, the students look ready to represent!