April 24, 2005 At the V.I. National Park's annual Folklife Festival, Denise Georges is the park ranger who looks harried. As visitors stroll the spacious Annaberg Plantation grounds, stopping here and there to see what is happening, Georges is zipping here and there to make sure everything runs smoothly.
The annual event showcases Georges' forte V.I. culture.
"She's an all-arounder, but she's good at the cultural stuff," Paul Thomas, her supervisor, said.
Getting ready to lead the popular hike down to Reef Bay, Georges showed off her bag of items she uses to demonstrate the old-time ways to tourists. She's owned some of them for years, and several, like a top made by the late Eddie Fahie, were gifts from people no longer alive.
She said she uses the theme "waste not, want not" to show the tourists who take the hike how Virgin Islanders lived in the past.
She's been at the park for 27 years. This makes her one of the longest-serving employees and the one with the most seniority in the Interpretive Division.
Georges, 49, first worked for the V.I. Health Department after graduating from Charlotte Amalie High School but knew she wanted more than an office job.
"I like being outdoors the freedom," she said.
When her father died unexpectedly at the age of 54, she knew it was time to find something that suited her better.
Her first stop was Caneel Bay Resort, where she worked as beach director, but she was more interested in a park career. She, like many other rangers, got her start as a lifeguard at the park's beaches. After seven months on the lifeguard stand, she jumped on a job in the Interpretive Division when it opened up.
Although she served short stints at Gulf Islands National Seashore in Florida and Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, she's glad to be back in her native Virgin Islands and at St. John's national park.
"It's more diverse. There's flora, fauna, architecture, agriculture," she said, ticking off just some of the things visitors enjoy about the St. John park.
She intends to stay until she retires, but admits that she wouldn't mind a stint at Acadia National Park in Maine because the maritime history interests her.
Every day is different. Some days she works at the Cruz Bay Visitor's Center's front desk. Other days, she's out leading hikes down the Reef Bay Trail, taking visitors on nature walks or showing off the park's undersea world
Born on St. Thomas, she moved back after years of living on St. John because she wanted to be closer to her mother, Melontia Georges, 90. She has a half-acre of land waiting for a house on St. Thomas' north side, and she spends time there tending her fruit trees.
In her spare time, Georges, likes cooking, baking, visiting family, swimming and hiking.
"The same things I do at work," she said, chuckling.
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