'Gold shovel' mystery solved

A momentous groundbreaking ceremony marking the start of a $55 million airport redevelopment project on Grand Cayman rated the “gold shovel” treatment for the nine officials who participated in the digging on Thursday. 

However, the majority of the shovels, which are used from time to time during ceremonies to mark the start of high-profile projects, apparently are not quite as fancy as one might imagine. 

“They are regular shovels from the hardware store that we spray with gold paint,” Gina Matthews, Ministry of Tourism public relations manager, said Friday. “When we’re finished using them, they’re dusted off and stored over at the Public Works Department.” 

One shovel used in Thursday’s groundbreaking by Governor Helen Kilpatrick is actually a proper ceremonial shovel, with a polished wood handle and gold plating. 

Ms. Matthews said the ceremonial shovels can become quite costly if a groundbreaking involves, say, a dozen people, so the government uses a much more cost-effective method for the other participants. 

“You can get [ceremonial] shovels, but the government just decided to use what we already had,” Ms. Matthews said. 

Other notable recent events at which the “gold shovels” have made an appearance in the Cayman Islands over the years include the August 2012 event marking the start of construction at Health City Cayman Islands and the July 2012 groundbreaking at Cayman Brac’s airport redevelopment. 

Typically, the government protocol office handles the implements used for ceremonial openings, government events and the like, but the shovels are the exception. 

Items like ceremonial scissors for ribbon-cuttings, the ribbons themselves and the “red carpet” are all kept at the protocol office. 

The symbolic
The symbolic ‘gold shovels’ used at Thursday’s groundbreaking at the Owen Roberts International Airport on Grand Cayman. – Photo: Charles Duncan


  1. Many thanks for solving the "gold shubble" mystery! Gilded shovels, not 14K gold. By the way, whatever happened after the gold shovel ceremony celebrating the July 2012 groundbreaking at Cayman Brac’s airport redevelopment? Has there been any construction, any change since renaming that airport Charles Kirkconnell International Airport and removing the name Gerrard Smith? A follow-up on redevelopment of Cayman Brac’s airport would be most welcome. Good and frequent airlift from a few southern US cities direct to the Brac – given the economic woes of beloved isle Brac – would entice much needed new and vital tourism. Perhaps an advertising campaign – "the unspoiled island" – might help?