THE FIRST INDEPENDENCE DAY
Trinidad and Tobago gained its independence from Great Britain on August 31st, 1962. At midnight on 30th August, 1962, the Union Jack (British flag) was lowered and the Trinidad and Tobago flag was raised for the first time. Bells tolled and sirens rang out to herald the birth of the newly independent nation. This first Independence Day was marked by more than a week of festivities and events across the country from August 28 to September 05, 1962. Several international dignitaries were present for this auspicious occasion including the Queen’s representative Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal who read the message sent by Queen Elizabeth II, relinquishing her rule.
Today, Independence Day is celebrated with military-style parades held at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain and in Scarborough, Tobago. In Trinidad, the parade is inspected by the Head of State who, from 1962-1976, was the Governor General (i.e. the Queen’s representative in Trinidad and Tobago). When Trinidad and Tobago achieved its status as a Republic in 1976, the President then assumed this role. The Chief Secretary, who is the leader of the Tobago House of Assembly, heads the Tobago parade. After the official activities at the parade grounds, the contingents march through the streets to the accompaniment of live music played by the bands of the various forces (e.g. Police, Fire and Prison bands). Cheering spectators line the parade route creating a carnival-like atmosphere.
The evening is usually marked by the presentation of National Awards in a ceremony held at the President’s House. These awards, which were first presented in 1969, honour the outstanding achievements of citizens of Trinidad and Tobago in various fields.
Finally, this day of celebration comes to a close with fireworks displays at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain and the Port Authority Compound, Scarborough Tobago. Thousands of people gather from early in the evening to get a strategic vantage point to view these shows.
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