The Bahamas mourns the passing of Winston Gus Cooper this morning

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Two Straight Victories are a fitting tribute to the life of Winton Gus Cooper

Winston Gus Cooper

By www.kamalamee.com

In 1958, a visionary in the form of Winston “Gus” Cooper formed a Junkanoo group along with friends from the Centreville area of New Providence, all mere teenagers at the time.  Ms. Gwen Fountain, mother of one of the members was employed with Malcolm’s Garage and obtained sponsorship for the small group in the amount of fifteen pounds for the Boxing Day parade.  The group received a consolation prize.

In 1959, Gus’s recruitment efforts continued and he attracted Doyle Burrows and Edward Fritzgerald two personalities who contributed significantly to the group’s initial stability and growth.  In fact Doyle’s brother Deyanza, gave the group its name The Valley Boys, as the area from which the group originated was “a valley” between three hills, Centreville, Hawkins and Sears Addition hills.

The structure was established for The Valley Boys and at the Boxing Day 1960 parade; the group got its first taste of many victories with its theme Scottish Highlanders.  With this victory, the group had changed the face of Junkanoo forever by cementing in the minds of competitors and judges alike the theme concept in Junkanoo, the artistic nature of crepe paper, and dance and performance movements, never before witnessed on the parade route.

The leader from inception, some 50 years ago, Vincent Gus Cooper, is a Junkanoo pioneer. He was a young man, who using the technical skills attained in college abroad, shaped the art of Junkanoo and steered it’s evolution into the collaborative colorific kaleidoscope of originally engineered costuming and the harmonious, pulsating percussion band, that we enjoy today. The Valley Boys, under his astute leadership, holds the record for the most wins. The group set the pace; introducing innovations in costume, music and performance many of which are still being used in Junkanoo today. Their costuming consistently hit new levels; dominating the field with new engineering and finishing, ensuring not only better carriage, but the “WOW” factor continuously.

The Valley Boys name is synonymous with parade music. The organization’s management nurtured this section, resulting in the development of a body of talent unrivalled by other Junkanoo groups. The Valley Boys dominated with another first, Female Dancers. Mr. Cooper’s support of the idea of trained dancers performing synchronized, yet themed routines, which helped the group depict each parade theme; lead to champion choreography sections with numerous victories over the past half century.

Under Mr. Cooper’s leadership the Valley Boys has dominate the Junkanoo world from it’s inception. He contributed to the ongoing growth of Junkanoo by serving on governmental committees and organizations, endeavoring to make Junkanoo the official cultural identifier for the country. His love for this cultural expression has been documented and has inspired the youth through educating, mentoring and guiding them in management and Junkanoo skills. His dream is that Junkanoo flourishes forever.

Mr. Cooper passed away January 4, 2014, 3 days after the Valley Boys won both Christmas and Boxing day parades.

May he rest in peace…