It’s all about tradition on Bermuda Day

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  • Photo by Mark Tatem
The Gombeys dance on May 24.

    Photo by Mark Tatem The Gombeys dance on May 24.

  • Photo by Glenn Tucker
Winner of the 2011 May 24 Half Marathon Derby Chris Estwanik.

    Photo by Glenn Tucker Winner of the 2011 May 24 Half Marathon Derby Chris Estwanik.

Bermudians usually just refer to Bermuda Day as “24th of May”. And that day this year it will fall on a Thursday brings with it the prospect of a beautiful summer and the time when most people start swimming, although the water can still be a bit chilly.

But Bermuda Day remains one of the most popular of holidays on the Island with thousands crowding the streets from Somerset to Hamilton to cheer on those running in the annual Bermuda Half Marathon Derby. Before the famous race there are also races involving cyclists and in-line skaters.

And then following the running there is the popular Bermuda Day Parade.

Others who have boats often travel to the East End of the Island for the traditional start to the Bermuda Fitted Dinghy season in St George’s Harbour.

But it is the Marathon Derby which really brings in the crowds. Last year Chris Estwanik won breaking the tape at the finish line at Bernard Park and nearly breaking his own course record of 1:08:25. Mr Estwanik hit the final straight with 12 seconds to go and was cheered every step of the last 100 yards by people who thought they were watching history in the making. As it was those final few strides proved just too much for the American, who finished two agonising seconds short of a new best. Still his time was more than enough to seal his fourth consecutive May 24 victory and confirm what everybody already knew, that on his day the best runner in Bermuda is miles better than the opposition, literally. Mr Estwanik blew away the rest of the field, finishing a whopping four minutes 22 seconds ahead of runner-up Lamont Marshall. “I was agonisingly close (to the record),” he said. “But that’s the way it goes, it was just beautiful conditions out there today.”

That is another thing people will be looking forward to beautiful conditions because many Bermudians and residents simply like to relax in the garden on May 24 and perhaps listen to the race on the radio while soaking up the sun’s rays.

The Bermuda Day Parade is also a fun event in the afternoon. Spectators gather and look at the floats, Gombeys and dancers and also take time out to have fun people they may not have seen for a while.

Last year crowds lined the sidewalk from Bernard Park to City Hall to see and hear the annual event, which highlighted the Island’s rich cultural heritage.

Elaborate costumes and even more elaborate floats marked the festivities, with Bermuda kites, palm leaf dolls and a recreation of The Sea Venture stranded on the rocks.

While many floats focused on the highlights of the Bermuda community, others noted the recent upswing in gun violence.

Anti-violence group Stand Up Bermuda entered a float featuring the names of shooting victims, while the Showtime Drumline wore camouflage emblazoned with the words “Stop the violence”.

The sidewalks from Front Street to Marsh Folly were covered with tents as families and strangers stood together to watch the parade move steadily past.

At the City Hall Car Park, more than 100 people sat on bleachers watching the various dance and Gombey troupes perform.

One spectator last year, Maureen Burgess, said she was enjoying the show more than in past years because she was watching rather than participating.

“It was always fun, but it’s so hot. It wears you out,” she said. “I’m happy watching this year.”

And Michael Rochester, from Toronto, Canada, said he was surprised by the scale of the parade.

“I was told there were only a few thousand people here,” he said. “It looks like they’re all out today. The sidewalks are completely full. Standing room only.”

As it was TN Tatem Middle School took home the award for best float for their spinning display of Bermudian art and culture.

The Fitted Dinghy racing is expected to start at 11 am in St George’s Harbour and it usually draws a large flotilla of spectator boats.

Last year’s winner of all three races on May 24, Contest III from the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, will be up against Challenger II from Sandys Boat Club, Elizabeth II from the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club and host club, the St George’s Dinghy and Sports Club will be entering Victory IV.

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Published Apr 26, 2012 at 10:00 am (Updated Apr 26, 2012 at 9:59 am)

It’s all about tradition on Bermuda Day

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