Cape Town -Thousands of Capetonians will line the streets of the Mother City on Saturday to experience the sights and sounds of the annual Tweede Nuwe Jaar minstrel parade, a longstanding Cape Town tradition.
More than 60 troupes of minstrels, dressed in colourful uniforms, wearing Panama hats and twirling bright umbrellas, will parade through the streets of the city centre to the beat of ghoema drums, brass bands and tambourines.
The event dates back to the days of the Cape Colony, when January 2 was a free day for slaves.
Kevin Momberg, chief executive of the Cape Town Minstrels Carnival Association, said preparations for this year’s event were complete: “Everybody is ready. Everybody is excited.”
Colourful troupes of minstrels, or klopse, brought in by bus from every corner of the city, will assemble on Keizersgracht in Zonnebloem throughout this morning, putting the final touches to their face paint and checking instruments.
The first troupes are expected to parade past the Castle of Good Hope, where viewing stands have been erected, at noon.
The Castle, built in 1666, is celebrating the 350th anniversary of the laying of its foundation stone today.
Minstrels will help commemorate the date at an official ceremony before the parade starts.
Earlier this week, Momberg said the involvement of minstrels in the event would help “free (the Castle) from its oppressive past, and celebrate the freedom we now have”.
After passing the Castle, the troupes will march down Darling Street, turn left into Adderley Street, and continue up Wale Street into the Bo-Kaap. Once among the brightly-painted Bo-Kaap houses, the troupes will turn right into Rose Street and continue until it meets Strand, where the 2.5km long parade ends.
But don’t expect seats right next to the road, or even standing room with unobstructed views, to be easy to come by.
Prime viewing spots, especially on the Grande Parade in front of the Cape Town City Hall, have all been claimed.
Families started booking their “plots” on Wednesday evening, sleeping in the open under gazebos to make certain that no interlopers snuck in.
“Look, if you don’t get here early, you’ll have to climb on to the roof of the Cape Town library to watch the parade,” one family said on Thursday, sitting on camping chairs under the shade of a gazebo on the Parade.
Garreth Bloor, mayoral committee member for tourism, said the parade was a highlight on the Mother City’s cultural calendar, attracting thousands of foreign and local tourists.
“I am certain this year the groups, which have been hard at work, will once again thrill the thousands of people who line the streets for hours,” he said.
While minstrel organising groups objected last month to the amount of funding they received from city authorities to host the event, Momberg said the focus was hosting a successful event, and that finances would only be discussed again when the parade was over.
The city has advised commuters to use public transport to get to the event.
MyCiTi bus services on Adderley Street, Long Street, Loop Street, Darling Street, Keizersgracht and Wale Street will be operating normally on Saturday.
The buses will be allowed access into the temporarily closed area.