March 9, 2003 – Under a bright March sun in a cloudless blue sky, hundreds of students, alumni, instructors, parents, children and a sprinkling of visitors tasted of Virgin Island food Sunday while celebrating the 14th annual University of the Virgin Islands Afternoon on the Green.
This year's event has a special meaning — "UVI's Inaugural Kallaloo" opened a week of activities leading up to the formal inauguration next Sunday of LaVerne Erina Ragster as the fourth president of the University of the Virgin Islands at the Reichhold Center for the Arts
But the star of this Sunday's show was the food — food, food, glorious food.
It seemed like an acre of everything imaginable under the wide yellow and white striped tents set up on the campus golf course. Vying with the standard sweet potato stuffing, dove pork, macaroni and cheese and johnny cakes, dumb bread and saltfish were slightly more exotic treats such as eggplant fritters, a pecan casserole, shrimp and okra stew, seafood rice creole and pinon, a Puerto Rican plantain, vegetable and beef casserole.
Looking up from a dish of pinon, retired UVI president Orville Kean smiled from under a sort of disguise. Wearing a backwards UVI baseball cap, dark glasses and a sport shirt, Kean said he is "enjoying a one-year sabbatical." He said that he and his wife, Juliette, who was also wearing a UVI cap while enjoying some mango ice cream from St. Thomas Dairies, "just came back from carnival in Trinidad."
Music flowed from Sea Breeze Band while old friends mingled, Steve Prosterman juggled and, at one point, a little Shakespeare entered the afternoon. The voice of Gabriel Villegas, an assistant attorney general, suddenly commanded attention as he broke in with a reading from "The Merchant of Venice," which the UVI Little Theater will be staging the first and second weekends of April.
Calvin Wheatley, recently retired from The West Indian Co., looked happy, although a little perplexed. "This is quite a display," he said, inching toward some potato stuffing. "There's so much!"
Judy Grybowski, who taught nursing at UVI for more than 20 years, moved through the crowd, smiling and greeting old friends. The judging of Sunday's cuisine was dedicated to the memory of her late husband, Kirk, who died suddenly last year. He had been a judge of the event for many years.
The couple had been traveling with their grandchildren shortly before Kirk died of a heart attack in Chicago. Kirk's travel journals can still be read ln the Source Lifestyle/Other Stuff section. Judy said she is planning to take one of their grandchildren to Ireland this summer, a trip Kirk had already planned. Meanwhile, here at home, she was musing over whether she could run in the annual Women's Jogger Jam next Sunday — she is a regular participant — and still make it back to the campus for Ragster's inauguration. She decided she couldn't.
Displays from various UVI sectors occupied a corner of the golf course. Prof. Joseph Thomas proudly showed the "Once upon a Business Division" display, complete with a computer PowerPoint presentation; the Division of Nursing, Little Theater, Reichhold Center and Small Business Development Center also were represented.
Then there were the desserts and drinks -– soursop pound cake, traditional black cake, mango pudding, an immense raspberry cream sheet cake, sweet potato cheesecake, peanut punch, soursop punch, and apple and cashew wines.
The judges had their work cut out for them. Their decisions are not due until later in the week, Patrice Johnson, UVI public relations director, said.
Johnson said she thought Sunday's crowd was bigger than the usual 500 or so: "There must have been easily 700, I'd say."
She said about 100 different dishes were served. "It's a community-spirited thing to do," she said. "About 85 cooks signed up, and some bring more than one dish. They do it out of the goodness of their hearts."
The "tastes" cost $2 each, and the proceeds will go for academic programs.
For the schedule of remaining inaugural week events, see the UVI Bulletin Board.

Publisher's note : Like the St. Thomas Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice… click here.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here