Nov. 26, 2005 The scent of burning incense and the sound of music wafted out of Tillett Gardens on St. Thomas Saturday, as vendors showcased their arts and crafts at the 26th Annual Holiday Arts, Crafts and Music Festival.
Tourists and locals alike streamed in throughout the day to browse and purchase the locally made items. This year, about 40 vendors offered a variety of items, including: handmade beauty products, soaps, jewelry, candles, Christmas ornaments, hand-painted clothing, paintings, pottery, pepper sauces and more.
Merry Phillips, a librarian at the Charlotte Amalie High School, sold Christmas ornaments she had made herself from shells and other "tropical" items.
"I've been doing this for six years," Phillips said of the ornaments that she makes in her spare time. "Everything has a Caribbean look to it."
Jahleba Benjamin, owner of Treasures of Zion, showed off her homemade beauty products that including scrubs and body butter all made with shea butter that she imports from Africa.
Candlemaker Jason Budsan displayed his unique candles at his store, Caribbean Herbals and Candles. Budsan also gave a candle-making demonstration, teaching the craft to several youngsters attending the fair.
"I think the turnout is great this year," Budsan said, adding that quite a number of individuals had come through his store. "It's really nice to see people buy things that are locally made."
Budsan who is also on the Arts Alive Board said the art festival is just one of the many things the organization does. Arts Alive is the presenting arm of the Tillett Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to presenting the best in visual and musical arts and music education.
Ruth Prager, executive director of Arts Alive, said the arts festival gives Tillett-resident artists and other locals the opportunity to showcase their arts and crafts to the public.
"I've been told that the quality of the artwork has really improved," Prager said. "I'm excited about that."
Prager, herself, is an artisan. She owns Kazooti Clay Studio in Tillett Gardens, and makes various types of pottery, including moisture-resistant salt and pepper shakers.
Prager said she has participated in the arts festival for three years now and enjoys it.
"I just love having all these artists in the garden," Prager said.
This year's vendors not only included Tillett-resident artisans and other locals, but Prager said they had vendors from the mainland and other Caribbean islands as well.
In addition to the display of various artworks, visitors and vendors were treated to live music from various bands, including Danny Sibler Ensemble, and Jason Jones. Visitors also purchased raffle tickets in support of Arts Alive and won prizes all donated by the vendors.
Khalil Al-Arefi, an 11th grade student at the Charlotte Amalie High School, said he enjoyed his time at the arts festival.
"There's a lot of neat stuff, lots of people, lots of music and lots of food," Al-Arefi said. "I can't forget the food."
Al-Arefi said he had attended the festival before in 2003 and returned this year.
Dee Spear, St. Thomas resident, said she attends the festival as long as she is in town.
"I like the variety of art and entertainment," Spear said.
The festival continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The next planned event for Arts Alive will be a concert featuring Arthur Woodley, a local bass vocalist, on Dec. 7.
Arts Alive will also begin its Concerts in the Garden Outreach Program to help young people embrace the arts. Selected students at various high schools will be given tickets and provided transportation to attend the concerts. Residents are encouraged to donate to this program by purchasing season tickets for the students.
For more information or to sponsor a student, call 775-1929.
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