A Bear Mountain reunion | Lifestyle – Jamaica Gleaner

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The vibe was pure magic, the ambience majestic, the venue peaceful and tranquil, as hundreds of Montegonians converged on Bear Mountain in the Hudson Highlands, New York, USA, last weekend.

There was unconditional love, camaraderie, family time, fellowship, and great Jamaican food, as former students of Cornwall College, Mount Alvernia, Montego Bay High, Herbert Morrison, St James High, Harrison Memorial, Manning, Rusea’s, and William Knibb, rubbed shoulders, hugged, prayed, repeated the Jamaican national anthem and chatted for an entire day.

Having lost two years to a pandemic, whose name they refused to acknowledge, the summertime getaway, which outgrew its original venues twice, rekindled memories and unlocked doors not entered since high school days.

“The feeling Saturday cannot be expressed in words. Being locked down for so long we needed this and we got it tenfold. The joy to see so many long-time friends was just awesome,” one of the summer getaway founders Jerry Dillon stated.

“Bear Mountain is an experience that I think all Montegonians should have at least once. The vibe was about pure love and unity,” he added. Started by a few friends from the Hillview Baptist Church in Albion, Montego Bay, several years ago, Dillon said every year it became bigger and bigger until they were forced to move it into a park.

Reminiscing on the old days, Dillon said they would buy food, and drinks, play soccer and volleyball, and today, this has been complemented by the sounds of reggae, dominoes, ludo, and individual food stations, manned by Jamaicans anxious to share anything they prepared free of cost.

Every dish envisaged is served at the annual event.

Blessed with good weather, Bear Mountain 2022 was an awesome experience. That nostalgic moment is still on the lips of former Cornwallian Chris Earle, a businessman in Atlanta Georgia, who says he saw two of his classmates whom he had not seen in 42 years.

“We sat next to each other in high school, but I migrated shortly after in 1981 and I have not laid eyes on them since. It was ridiculous, one of them now lives in Canada, the other in Maryland. It was amazing,” he stated, still in awe that an event like the one at Bear Mountain exists.

Earle’s family started the Atlanta Jerk Festival, but it is not the same. The Bear Mountain affair pairs people who have lost touch with each other, but yearn and question where their friends are today.

This was Earle’s first time at Bear Mountain and so was his wife, who he said attended school in Trelawny and is from that area. He plans to make it an annual sojourn.

Earle also saw two other teammates he played football with 35 years ago.

“The camaraderie what was had me engaged,” he told The Sunday Gleaner, adding that most of his friends were doing well professionally and were involved in philanthropic efforts. For him, the time spent among his schoolmates, classmates, teammates, and acquaintances from yesteryear was priceless.

The same is true for Andrew Brissett, who has been attending for the last 10 years and only missed one occasion.

“I have a great deal of love for family and even though most of those I fellowship with at Bear Mountain aren’t biological family, the atmospheric conditions, the natural ambience, peace and tranquillity just have a way of settling all things, even but for a moment,” he explained.

Now in his early 50s, Brissett said he saw friends from his primary school days. “Classmates that I hadn’t seen in four decades was such a nostalgic feeling.”

Montego Bay High School girls and regular attendees Veronica Heron and Merlene ‘Princess Jamaica’ Mullings both say not only do they get to fellowship, but they get a chance to do what they love to do, which is charity work for their alma mater.

“I love the fact that when everyone sees me their pockets get a little lighter,” Heron quipped.

Bear Mountain for them is all about family.

“I feel like when I’m at Bear Mountain, I just feel safe. I feel like I’m back in Montego Bay back in the 80s when I was in high school. In particular, this past Bear Mountain, I personally felt love in the air. It was palpable. Everybody had positive vibes. Everybody was showing love and giving love and accepting love,” said Mullings.

According to her, this was the spirit of Bear Mountain. “I don’t think that there’s anything like it. I don’t believe that there’s any other town or community that has a gathering as our Bear Mountain. And I just go because it just rejuvenates me. Reminds me of where I’m coming from,” she added.

Celebrated each year, the second Saturday in August, no less than 700 Jamaicans were in the park facility that accommodated several other nationalities and beliefs.

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