Jan. 29, 2005 Are you ready for some good old family fun? Well, mark the dates for the 34th annual Agricultural and Food Fair happening President's weekend, Feb. 19 21, 2005. Opening ceremonies are set for Saturday, Feb. 19, at 10 a.m. under the Big Tent. The fair will run for three days the last being Monday, President's Day.
Visitors from all over the Caribbean, especially the neighboring islands of St. Thomas and St. John, travel to the big island to sample the native cuisine and purchase the livestock, plants and arts and crafts offered during this three-day event and served with a heaping helping of Crucian culture.
The annual event has been hailed as the Caribbean's largest agricultural fair and is recognized as the third-largest event in the Virgin Islands, surpassed only by the V.I. Carnival and St. Croix Festival. Last year's fair recorded over 55,000 visitors.
This year's theme is "Keeping Agriculture Alive through Technology in 2005." The annual event is a chance to recognize people who work with the soil and livestock as well as some of the island's favorite cooks. This year's honorees include: Raphael "Bucky" Plaskett for the Agricultural Fairgrounds, Mrs. Lena Schulterbrandt for the Food Pavilion, Robert "Bobby" Henley for the Farmer's Market and James Peter Skov for the Livestock Pavilion.
The fair had its beginnings in the 1950s at the old agriculture station in Anna's Hope. It started as a small event to display the farmers' products. In 1971 the fair moved to its present location in Estate Lower Love, and it has continued to grow every year. Today, with its large livestock component, school and youth displays and farmers' market, this local fair can stand its ground against any country or state fair traditionally held in many parts of the mainland.
New at this year's fair is the public entry competition and the children's cake competition. The public is asked to enter any cake or pastry made with local fruit as an ingredient. The local fruit can be used as a filling, icing or just in the ingredients of the entry. You can submit your entry beginning on Sunday, Feb. 20, at 2 p.m. The kiddie cake competition will also take submissions on Sunday, Feb. 20, until the end of the day. Children are asked to submit a whole uncut cake for this competition.
As always, the fair draws off-island participants. There will also be a display from Ghana, Africa. Large displays will be submitted from the University of the Virgin Islands, Innovative, Hovensa, the department of Planning and Natural Resources Energy Office, V.I. Water and Power Authority and the St. Croix Vocational and Technical School. The livestock display will be housed in a newly constructed steel frame building.
No matter what your tastes or interests, you will be sure to find something to capture your attention at the fair. If you always wanted to know how to make saltfish gundy, ginger beer or guavaberry ice cream, just be on time to see the food demonstrations on the east side of the fairgrounds. Take the children to the petting zoo, so they can get "up close and personal" with baby goats, rabbits and calves. Parents can get a few extra hours of "goodness" from the little ones by promising them a donkey ride or a ride on the "soul train" that circles the fairgrounds at regular intervals. Browse the stalls and pick up a late Valentine's present from the array of handmade jewelry, blown glass, candles, T-shirts and one-of-a-kind items. You can even take time out to check your health by visiting one of several local non-profits who will be offering blood pressure, cholesterol and other health screenings. Whether you are relaxing in the cool shade under a mango tree, sampling some kalaloo, or listening to the sounds of calypso and reggae music from one of the many live bands which will be performing, the fair has something for everyone, young and old, to enjoy.
The gates are open Saturday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and admission is $2 for children, $3 for seniors and $5 for everyone else. For group rates, call the Department of Agriculture at 778-0997.
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