Day of the birds

by Wendella Davidson and
Linda Rutherford
Guyana Chronicle
April 6, 1999

THE overcast skies did not keep them away and thousands trekked outdoors yesterday for the traditional Easter Monday kite-flying, in which the `birds' prevailed, and picnicking around the country.

In and around Georgetown, it was a sea of colours as kites of all sizes and shapes, with peculiar droning sounds, rode the wind, or kept to the ground.

People were everywhere - on beaches, the seawall and in parks and sports grounds as they converged on almost every conceivable open space to fly their kites.

Yesterday seemed like the `day of the birds', as the Chinese-made plastic bird kites, which up to yesterday morning were being sold at the giveaway price of $200 each, dominated.

But vying with them were the kites enthusiasts made themselves, in a wide variety of colours, shapes and sizes.

There were the box kites; another in the shape of a man; the singing engine and the more expensive dragon and bird kites which fetched prices of $39,000, $19,000, $17,000 and $4,200.

As is traditional, the hub of activity was on the Georgetown Seawall and the National Park and the atmosphere there was more in picnic-style.

From early morning, families looking dandy in brightly-coloured sports wear and fetching huge baskets of delicacies, some in vehicles, made their to the seawall and National Park hoping to catch the best spots.

Once satisfied with the choice of location, makeshift tents were pitched on sheets and blankets and these were everywhere as the day wore on.

It was a day for everyone, babes, the young and the old, women and men.

Some were relaxed, enjoying the day out but there was frustration too as kites refused to take to the air.

Groups in the National Park also participated in other pastimes such as a friendly game of cricket, football or rounders, pony-rides or just the casual walkabout.

There were also chic-chic (gambling) boards, barbecue grills and the popular `boom-boom' boxes with blaring soca, dub and rock music.

These latter side attractions, mainly in the vicinity of the seawall, attracted mostly young people.

The annual kite-flying competition at the Georgetown seawall, near the bandstand, was sponsored by Seven Seas, distributed by the Geddes Grant firm.

Co-ordinated by Mr. Brian Perreira, it attracted a number of entrants vying for cash prizes of $20,000 for the biggest kites; $15,000 the most colourful; $10,000 the most unusual and $5,000 for the smallest kite.

To qualify for entry, kites were required to have the words `Seven Seas' prominently displayed and to have the colours of yellow, red and black of the Seven Seas packaging.

Contestants also had to attempt to portray fish, oranges and other nutrients used in Seven Seas products, use symbols to depict a healthy Seven Seas lifestyle or use slogans.

The entries ranged from as large as 17 feet high to as tiny as an inch long, among them a cricket bat and a fish.

The 17-foot cricket bat, with the words `Rally round the West Indies', had some seven attendants perspiring to get it off the ground.

Things were relatively low key early in the day along the East Coast Demerara.

Pinky, a sweetmeat vendor at the Mon Repos foreshore said 14:00 hrs was much too early in the day to see any kind of action.

Things usually begin to come alive around 15:00 hrs, she said, just as the sun is beginning to go down.

This was substantiated by Prano, another vendor.

Out at sea, the tide appeared to be neither going nor coming, much to the delight of a gaggle of mangy dogs foraging for the day's meal.

At the water's edge far out in the distance, a young man whispered sweet nothings in his girlfriend's ear while the wind, as if in fierce competition, gently caressed her flowing tresses.

Closer to shore, lengths of black and white polythene twine created a succession of acute angles between painfully ordinary kites and their eager owners. But not in enough numbers as to constitute a large turnout.

Upwind, `Air Supply Sound System' seemed intent on making sweet music for a proposed barbecue in spite of a sky gone pewter grey from overhanging clouds.

Down at Turkeyen, pockets of University of Guyana (UG) students were still hustling tickets to their `Academic Freedom' family fun day and campus jam.

The fourth year such an activity was being held on campus, co-ordinator Dr. Ken Danns said the slow build-up was to be expected at that time of day.

The crowds, he assured, would come much later when things really began to get in the swing. Noting that they netted G$530,000 after expenses last year, Danns was optimistic they will do much better this year.

The proceeds are to go towards building a Convention Centre, for which an account is soon to be opened at a city bank.

Out on the main road, between the turn-off to UG and what is now the Ministry of Health Annexe, was what could only be described as tent city, as families turned out in car, mini-bus and truckloads or by whatever means at their disposal to camp out and generally have a good time on the embankment.

The term tent city came to mind because of the blue tarpaulined shelters that dotted the area.