July Breeze” took centre stage in July 1985 at the Vihara Mahadevi Park, Colombo in the presence of an unprecedented gathering of Old Benedictines, their families, friends and well-wishers.
The mega carnival was the finale to months of arduous and meticulous planning by the organizing committee spearheaded by the formidable duo of Justin Dias and Gamini Kannangara with Franklyn Holsinger as Co-ordinating Secretary. The spectrum of the committee was strengthened by the entry of a band of Benedictines of varying vintage who worked in unison with the trio.
In reminiscing ‘July Breeze’ was the culmination of the vision of the Director, La Salle Brothers, Staff and Old Boys Union of this premier Lasallian institute in the country which celebrated the 147th year of its existence on July 11. The large number of Benedictines who responded to the clarion call of rallying around their alma mater was beyond compere. Franklyn Holsinger recalls the motivation from Rev. Bro. Alexander FSC, Director of the College and educationist par excellence and together with stalwarts Felix Dias & Victor Fernando accepted the challenge of translating the vision to reality. The first meeting of the committee witnessed 30 Old Bens and in quick time the numbers zoomed to 100, a vindication of the zeal and commitment of past students. The meetings were many, well attended and covered countless hours of planning, discussions, with every minute detail looked into. It was the first time an event of this magnitude was to be held outside the perimeters of the school and that was a daunting task.
The mega carnival proved a tremendous success and literally took the metropolis by storm. The surging crowds averaging 25,000 each day was eloquent testimony to the saga of the Benedictine effort netting a record surplus of Rs. 1.2 million. Peter Prins headed the Entertainment committee, the beneficiary of Tony Motha’s (Queens Confectionaries) largesse in sponsoring all the shows which were lapped up enthusiastically by the endless stream of visitors. The youngest member of the team dynamic Victor Fernando imbued with enthusiasm and a penchant to get things done was assigned the vital responsibility of ensuring the water supply and drainage to the premises in addition to the ceremonials which he handled with finesse with his flair for public relations. It was a sane decision considering that Victor was closely associated with a leading architectural & engineering firm in Colombo. Victor recalls the benevolence extended by Cletus Gomez in permitting the use of the pipes which had been purchased for the construction of the latter’s new office complex in Colpetty.
The carnival was ceremonially opened by Minister Lalith Athulathmudali who congratulated the Bens for having ventured to embark on this gigantic project despite constraints and bringing cheer to thousands who were awaiting such a mega event to fill a void in the realm of entertainment. The carnival was opened, on the days following the curtain raiser, by Ministers Gamini Dissanayake, Anandatissa De Alwis & M. Vincent Perera.
The stalls numbering 105 had been a ‘sell out’ generating an income of Rs. 5,000 each being eagerly snapped up by public & private organizations. The food on offer had a wide repertoire of dishes with an international flavour and enjoyed an increasing demand each day. The range of delectable food catered to the utmost satisfaction of diners with varying culinary tastes. In the sphere of entertainment it could aptly be described as superlative with the effervescent Peter Prins, an obvious choice at the helm and Break Dance competitions a popular draw. The highlight of the evenings was the performance on stage by the fabulous ‘Gypsies’. The daily tasks in manning the stalls and carnival office were carried on by the Benedictine triumvirate of old boys, teachers and students in a manifestation of committed service.
It was a welcome sight to witness long queues of vehicles parked from Vihara Maha Devi Park all the way through to Darley Road, Alexandra Place, Munidasa Kumaratunga Mawatha and endless lines of enthusiastic visitors streaming in from the moment the entrance gates were opened. The carnival was an instant attraction and it was no surprise, according to Franklyn, that many had turned up even on the day following the grand finale only to return with a sense of disappointment.
In recalling the Bens who rendered yeoman service, in addition to the leaders referred to above: Dr. Michael Joachim, Allan Gunasekera, Athula Senaratne, Dudley Thambinayagam, Neil De Silva, Rohan De Silva, Eraj Abeywardene, Tilak Peiris, Malsiri Perera, Sunimal Salgadoe, Denzil Perera, Bosco Fonseka, Nalake Fernando, Lal Wickrematunge, John NLC Fernando, J. O. J. Perera, Leslie Hewage, Placidus Gomez, Pradeep Moraes, Luke De Silva, Ranjith Fernando, Ranjan Nadesapillai, Ravi Irugalbandara, Fazil Dole, Francis D’Almeida, J. P. Perera, Ranjit Fernando, Hilarion Bastians, Peter D’Almeida, Ranjit Attygalle, Randolph Perera, J. F. Assissi, Amalraj Miranda and Valentine Fernando. Our apologies for any names inadvertently omitted.
The late Bro. Alexander, Cletus Gomez, Herbert Weerasinghe (IGP), Chandra Perera (SSP), Basil Noyahr, Premnath Moraes, Canute Perera, Leslie Vandersay, Trevor Alphonso, Peter Prins, Cedric Perera, Frank Taleyratne are now in the land beyond. We revere the memories left behind and salute their significant contributions, which have left an indelible impression in the minds of all Benedictines. The above stalwarts fulfilled the assigned tasks with responsibility having chaired the various sub committees in an aura of efficiency.
The organizing committee worked late into the wee hours of the morning with a zest that epitomized the Benedictine zeal. The sheet anchor Franklyn Holsinger recollects how he spent two weeks at the venue prior to the opening day and another four days after the conclusion, just days before he migrated to Australia with his family. The singular contribution made by Franklyn Holsinger ably assisted by Felix Dias, Eric Motha Victor Fernando, Lal Wickrematunge and Ranjan Nadesapillai in steering the activities from the Secretariat and co-ordinating effectively with all stakeholders was commendable. The parents too assisted in canvassing for and securing stalls which generated sizable revenue.
‘JULY BREEZE’ was indeed a Benedictine extravaganza not hitherto witnessed in Colombo and it was gratifying when the entire committee turned up on the morning after the concluding night to relish the spirit of victory and return home with the smug satisfaction of ‘Mission Accomplished’.
Penned by : Eric Motha (Vancouver) Franklyn Holsinger (Melbourne) and Victor Fernando (Dubai)
Article Published in the Sunday Leader – on 12th August 2012