October 2018 Volume 15

20th Anniversary of the Big Purple Session

Everton Bailey
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It's hard to believe that the Big Purple Session has been around for 20 years.

From its humble beginnings in 1998, the event has mushroomed into a colossal social event, and has evolved into the flagship fundraiser for KC world-wide.

The brainchild of a committed and visionary group from the KCOBA South Florida Chapter including, among others, Audley Hewett, Dr. Wayne Fraser, Horace Minott, Michael Malcolm, Leighton Dawes, and Audley Patterson, the event quickly outgrew its original venue, the Walter C. Young High School in Pembroke Pines, and even the spacious Miramar Cultural Center.

“In April 1998, Churchill Neita, Bruce Rickards, Stratton Palmer and a few others came up from Jamaica and encouraged us to start some fund­ raising activities in South Florida. We quickly formed a 501(c) 3 (tax exempt charity) entity and had our first session in October 1998 with Merritone as the feature. The rest, as the saying goes, is history", recalls Dr. Wayne Fraser, one of the pioneers.

"Over the last twenty years, we have generated in excess of US$1,000,000 from the Big Purple Session," says Audley Hewett. These funds have contributed to help fill the myriad of needs at the school including, but not limited to:

  • Construction of the Melbourne Social Services Building
  • Repair of the Chapel
  • Funding of Champs and Penn Relay teams

· Funding of Schools' Challenge teams

· Renovation of the Science Lab

  • Funding of the Cadet Corp
  • Teacher incentive and scholarship programs
  • Purchase of school computers

· Funding for the Douglas Forest Library and Technology Building

· Construction of the Byron Bachelor Athletics Complex

“Congratulations! I am looking forward to heading to South Florida for the 20th edition of the Big Purple Session. I am sure it will be a great reunion”, says KC Times editor, Glen Laman, from the KCOBA Atlanta Chapter.

And so, as the event enters its twentieth year all signs point to continued growth and success. In recent years. the event, which is held on the first Saturday in October each year, is now hosted at the expansive Temple Beth in Cooper City which, so far, has been able to handle the ever-expanding crowds.

Over the years, a veritable who-is-who of top flight Jamaican artists, such as Freddy McGregor, Sanchez, Coco Tea, Ken Boothe and Marcia Griffiths, have performed at the event. Fab Five, a band which itself has KC roots, and is a perennial crowd favorite, along with relative newcomer, Code Red, have played at the event. This year, Code Red will feature, and veteran musician and former Heptones lead-singer, the ageless Leroy Sibbles is the guest artist.

"The session has been a very positive influence in our relationship with the community and it is a major fund-raising event for KC," says Karl McNish, a member of the finance committee.

There are several reasons for the success of the annual Big Purple Session. Throughout the years, aside from the usual loyal support from the KCOBA South Florida members, the event has had the support of all KC Old Boys Chapters, and KC Old Boys and their families, not just in Florida, but from New York, Atlanta, and throughout the U.S., Toronto, Jamaica, and indeed from around the world. In addition, given the strong credibility and brand loyalty associated with the KC brand, the broader South Florida community has also embraced the event, and account for a substantial portion of our patrons. Indeed, the Big Purple Session is now firmly entrenched on the South Florida social calendar, and is easily the marquee Jamaican high school alumni event in the community. The KCOBA is deeply appreciative for the support, loyalty, and goodwill which we have received from the extended KC fraternity and the South Florida community over the years, without which the event could not have been enjoyed such unimaginable success.

But the Big Purple Session is more than just a fundraiser; it is a massive reunion of KCOBs from the different eras ranging from the 1950s to the present. The weekend activities formally being on Friday evenings with a Meet and Greet – this year’s venue is the Grand Palms Hotel in Pembroke Pines. For those who are still fit - or can't find their age paper and are still playing football, it is not unusual for a group of players to meet on Saturday- morning at a local park to play some scrimmage. This year's venue is St Bartholomew Catholic, corner of University Drive and Miramar Parkway in Miramar. Additionally, informal gatherings among assorted groups of KC Old Boys take place throughout the weekend.

And then there is the Big Purple Session itself.

Hundreds of beautiful women of every shape, size and hue, bedecked in their finest apparel, grace us with their presence each year. KC Old Boys you have not seen in years miraculously appear, and old friendships are reestablished. It is a time to reconnect with old friends, rehash tales of form and Manning Cup matches won and lost, and to basically, for one brief moment, turn back the hands of time. It is truly a time to bond and reminisce while contributing to the fundraising efforts for our beloved alma mater.

Music blares, conversations ensue, laughter erupts, and the stress and drudgery of life become a distant memory for this one, magical night. You dance, mingle, drink (responsibly) deep into the night and time loses its meaning. And when the event finally ends, the memories endure and the quiet assurance remains that, God’s willing, we will get to do it all over again next year.

It is truly a priceless experience.

Fortis Forever

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