Home All History Of The Bermuda Day Parade

History Of The Bermuda Day Parade

The first Bermuda Day Parade took place in 1979, while the Bermuda Half Marathon Derby dates back to 1909, making it the longest standing race in Bermuda history.

Both events have grown to be extremely popular, with locals lining the streets to cheer on the runners and watch the parade, many even camping out the night before to ensure they have a prime viewing spot.

Aerial footage showing canopies lining the Bermuda Day route in 2018

In describing the history behind the iconic parade, the Bermuda Department of Community and Cultural Affairs said: “Civil unrest in the 1960s and 1970s prompted the Bermuda Government to commission a report examining the social conditions in Bermuda and make recommendations to promote a more unified and peaceful social atmosphere.

“The Pitt Report of 1978 gave an accurate representation of the social and racially tense atmosphere at the time, and included feedback from many Bermudians that suggested an event should be organised to bring Bermudians together in harmony and to build a sense of civic pride.

“It was decided that a parade would provide an opportunity for camaraderie and celebration, similar to the Easter Parade that ran from the 1930s through to the 1960s. During that time, many farmers grew flowers so that they could be in full bloom for the Easter period. It was also suggested in the Pitt Report that the proposed event capture the unifying spirit of the existing May 24 half-marathon.

“These events both served as inspiration for the Bermuda Day Heritage Parade which replaced Empire Day, the annual public holiday recognising Queen Victoria’s birthday. The first Bermuda Day Parade took place in 1979. It was historically celebrated on May 24th or the weekday nearest May 24th if that date fell on a weekend, but from 2018 onward will be celebrated on the last Friday in May, and in 2020 on Friday, May 29, 2020.

A look back at the 1983 & 1987 Bermuda Day Parades

“Bermuda quickly realised that one day of celebration was not enough time to recognise the broad spectrum of Bermudian heritage and traditions. Heritage Week was born, celebrated in the last week in May. By the mid-1980’s, this was expanded further into Heritage Month with a calendar full of events through May that celebrates Bermudian culture, heritage, and traditions.

“Bermuda Day has become the culminating point of Heritage Month and one of the most beloved cultural holidays alongside Cup Match [Emancipation Day & Somers Day]

“On Bermuda Day, Bermudians showcase their pride in the beauty and diverse culture of our island – whether they participate in the parade, the half-marathon, go for their first swim of the year, attend the season’s first fitted dinghy boat races, or follow the Gombeys through the streets crying, Ay-oh!”.

Click here to view the Bermuda Day Timeline

1902

First Empire Day Takes Place

The first Empire Day took place on May 24, 1902 across the British Empire; this day would later become Bermuda Day.

1909

First Race Held

The first race was held, starting what is now the longest standing race in Bermuda history.

1915

Race Cancelled Due To WWI

The race was cancelled due to the First World War.

1916

First Bermudian Winner

The first Bermudian winner of the race, with John Simons winning in 1 hour, 20 minutes.

1976

First Female Winner

The first time the derby had male and female categories, with Merernette Bean-Simmons the first female winner.

1979

First Bermuda Day Parade Held

The first ever Bermuda Day Parade was held.

1987

First Cycling Race Held

The first time the cycling race was held on the holiday, won by Buddy Ford.

2007

Half Marathon Course Altered

The half marathon course was altered slightly to ensure that it spans 13.1 miles.

2017

Law Passes To Move Bermuda Day To Last Friday

Parliament passes legislation to move the official Bermuda Day holiday to the last Friday of the month of May; the new law took effect in 2018.

2020

Covid-19 Causes Cancellations

Both the race and parade were canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.