I've lived in Saipan for more than 25 years, and I've been to approximately three Liberation Day parades, before today. I don't much like crowds and heat, and the 4th of July festivities usually involve both. Today, I went to support Anna Rose and the rest of the Saipan members of the Pride of the Pacific marching band. Anna Rose plays trombone in the SSHS Manta Ray Band (advanced band 1).
The parade hasn't changed much in the 25 years since I've been here. There is still a shanty-town of plywood booths for the "festival" across the way. There is the temporary parade stand (elevated platform resting on old barrels) in bunting (typically plastic now, rather than palm and pandanus). The police lead off with motorcycles, a color guard and cadets. But there is no longer a bull pulling an oxcart.
This photo by Junhan Todeno, Marianas Variety
This summer, students from all levels of the Manta band, including those already graduated from school and now "former" members, and musicians from the Pacific Winds joined forces with Guam musicians to create an ad hoc band to march in the parade. Approximately 25 musicians from Saipan participated in the parade performance, including Atsuko Eck (on the small saxophone), who blended in with the students!
Ten musicians (all students, I think) came from Guam, along with Jayke Mafnas (Guam Territorial Band leader, UOG music major and marching band guru, drum majorette, etc.). Will DeWitt of SSHS and Max Ronquillo of Guam's George Washington High School directed the music preparation.
The musicians marched along beach road in the parade route from Saipan Office Supply to Kristo Rai Church. It rained at 10 AM, the parade scheduled start time. Then the sum came out and created a scorching steam bath from the water just dumped by the passing clouds. It was hot!
The band sounded great. When they got to the shaded platform for dignitaries and did their little special marching drill and playing, they maintained their formations, kept beat, and just did a great job.
Afterwards, they posed for some photos, cooled off in the shade and drank a ton of water.
The performance was the first time a "home-grown" marching band has performed in the Saipan Liberation Day parade.
They had learned their marching drills in about 3 days time--working from 7:30 AM to 6:30 PM, practicing their formations at the SSHS parking lot.
I'm reallly glad Anna Rose and the other students had the chance to do this. Thanks to Will deWitt, Max Ronquillo, and especially Jayke Mafnas for working with our students on this new endeavor.
And back at the parade grounds--I didn't stay for the rest. I had seen the color guard, the police cadets, and the JROTC. The Neighborhood Watch, in their green shirts, followed the band, and were waiting to get into the shade. As I was leaving, I heard the Falun Dafa group, with their gongs and music. But it was hot, so I headed for some air conditioning and a nice, tall glass of iced tea.
Happy Liberation Day. And happy Fourth of July.
EDIT/ADDENDUM: A big thank you, dangkolo si yuuse maase, ghilisou, to the Beautify CNMI team who cleaned up.