After almost a week of rain, the skies cleared on Thursday morning, May 26, just in time for the sun to shine down on the first day of the 20th annual St. John Folklife Festival.
The festival continued on Friday, May 27, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and again on Saturday evening, May 28, from 6 to 9 p.m.
Launched more than two decades ago by V.I. National Park Ranger Denise Georges, the annual festival is hosted each year at the Annaberg Sugar Mill Ruins, bringing together music, traditional crafts and history. The festival is usually put on during the month of February as a celebration of Black History Month, but had to be rescheduled this year due to a sickness in Georges’ family.
Although being celebrated a few months later, judging by the smiles on festival-goers faces, the event didn’t suffer from the delay.
With a theme of “A Cultural Potpourri for All A We” the festival this year focused on the commonality of the African Caribbean Diaspora.
Presenters included Dr. Rita Pratt, Director of African Bahamian Diaspora at Henderson College; V.I. Cultural Institute Director Myron Jackson; author, storyteller, linguist and historian Dr. Gilbert Sprauve; Annice Canton, librarian and educator; poet and author Tregenza Roach; and VINP Caribbean Historian Milagros Flores.
“Discussions were really all about the Caribbean-wide commonalities that include the natural and cultural heritage shared within the region,” said Georges.
Students from Julius E. Sprauve, Guy Benjamin and Gifft Hill Schools on St. John as well as Lockheart Elementary and St. Thomas/St. John Seventh Day Adventist Schools were among the attendees this year. The event was free and open to the public.
The festival featured dance performances by Lockheart Elementary School, St. Lucia Association Dancers, Dominican Association Dancers, St. Thomas Heritage Dancers and St. John Cultural Dancers.
Koko and the Sunshine Band provided live music from the shade of the stone mill at Annaberg while Irvin “Brownie” Browne returned as emcee extraordinaire once again.
Traditional crafts and food were also available during the fair. Hugo Roller of Coral Bay Garden Center handed out samples of herbs for bush tea and basil starters. Mario Benjamin showed students how to knit seine nets and Yolanda Morten displayed her fine craftwork. Sonia Sprauve was selling her hand-made hot sauces and guavaberry jams.
Delroy “Ital” Anthony set up his hand-made mocko jumbie sculptures and crafts made with local seeds and other organic material. Justin Todman showed off his broom making skills and Elizabeth Aubain displayed her woven bags, belts and hats.
Olivia Christian and Golda Hermon braved the heat of the small kitchen structure at Annaberg, whipping up fresh dumb bread in coal pots cooking over locally made charcoal.
Gardener Charles “Kalo” Jackson toured students around the Annaberg garden which was teeming with everything from sugar cane and coconut to cherries and lemongrass.
“My favorite part of the whole day was picking cherries from the garden,” said one Lockheart Elementary School student.
It wasn’t all fun and games though. Students also toured the ruins and had to answer questions about the plantation’s history.
“The students were so well behaved,” said Georges. “I think they really had a good time and they even learned some things too. I love having the kids up here because there is so much to soak in and enjoy.”
After an exciting night-time show under the stars at Annaberg, which featured the St. John Cultural Dancers, St. Thomas Heritage Dancers and the Dominican Association Dancers, the 20th annual St. John Folklife Festival wrapped up another great year.