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Forty thousand minstrels, dressed in Panama hats, bow ties and suits, and carrying umbrellas, marched and danced to the beat of goema drums and brass bands paraded from Keizersgracht to the Bo-Kaap yesterday in the annual Tweede Nuwe Jaar minstrel parade.
Thousands of spectators lined the route, cheering and clapping as the 75 troupes marched past.
Some families had camped overnight on Darling Street near the city hall to secure prime viewing spots.
Melvyn Davids said he had been coming to the parade for decades.
“It’s great – it’s tradition,” he said, sitting in the shade of one of the many gazebos lining the route, as he waited for another troupe to arrive.
The parade was opened by mayor Patricia de Lille at noon, who said Cape Town should be proud of its minstrel tradition, which stretches back more than a century.
To cheers and laughter from the crowd, she added that the troupes had promised her that “they were not going to start late”, a reference to last year’s parade, which was delayed due to transport problems.
The carnival dates back to the days of the Cape Colony, when January 2 was a free day for slaves. This year the procession was moved to January 4 so that more people could attend it.
Soon after De Lille’s address, the first of the troupes started marching.
Each troupe marches separately, and is usually accompanied by its own brass band and drummers.
A standard-bearer leads the group, often followed by groups of eager youngsters, then the troupe’s main body.
As it passes the city hall, its name is announced and its history given.
The troupes, which practise for months ahead of parade day, all wear similar clothing which is made specially for the parade.
Some, like the Shopright Pensylvanians – wearing white and yellow suits and black panama hats – have hundreds of members. Others, like the Claremont Coronation Entertainers, who hail from Gugulethu and Khayelitsha, have only a few dozen. Its leaders wore black and white patterns based on traditional Xhosa dress.
But all were cheered heartily by spectators as they marched from Keizersgracht to Darling Street, turned left into Adderley and then continued up Wale ito the historic Bo-Kaap.
Brenda Easton, from Belgravia, said it was “fantastic” to be at the parade again after missing it for many years. Sitting on a camp chair on Adderley Street at lunchtime, Easton said she had come with friends and family to watch her nephew, who is part of the Beach Boys troupe.
Easton said she had been involved in Tweede Nuwe Jaar in her youth, but had had then lost touch with it. She added she was enjoying the music, sights and sounds tremendously.
“I just hope the Beach Boys don't come too late,” she said.
Mayoral committee member for tourism, events and marketing Grant Pascoe said the day went according to plan and although there were some delays, the event ran far more smoothly than in recent years.
He said a certain amount of controversy could usually be expected from the minstrel carnival, but that the only problem they had encountered was an MC on the stage at the Grand Parade who had taken it upon himself to make a political statement.
“It was unfortunate that at some point when some speeches were made, the platform was used to make some political speeches.
“We don’t condone that and we don’t approve of that kind of behaviour,” said Pascoe.
“We condemn that because we don’t use any event which public money is spent on to campaign for any elections.”
Other than that, Pascoe said, it “was an enjoyable day for all” and they were pleased to see so many thousands of people lining the routes in the city centre.
Pascoe said there had been no reports of injuries or any incidents during the course of the day.
The minstrel troupes were last night headed for Athlone stadium to continue the festivities. - Weekend Argus