Jan. 29, 2006 — Preparations are underway for the 35th annual Agriculture and Food Fair at the Rudolph Schulterbrandt Agriculture Complex in Estate Lower Love on St. Croix. This year the fair will last four days instead of the usual three, according to Agriculture Commissioner Lawrence Lewis.
Hailed as the Caribbean's largest agriculture fair and compared by visitors to many state and county fairs around the United States, AgFest 2006 is expected to draw thousands of people from all across the Caribbean. In past years, more than 50,000 people attended the three-day event. Commissioner Lewis said he expects that number to rise significantly this year.
This year's theme is "Agriculture and Tourism: A Perfect Mix for 2006."
Opening ceremonies will begin at 1 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17, and the fair will continue until 7 p.m. that day. According to Department of Agriculture employees, Governor Charles W. Turnbull is expected to grant administrative leave to nonessential government employees Friday afternoon. Saturday through Monday, fair hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $2 for children, $3 for seniors and $5 for everyone else. For group rates, call the Department of Agriculture at 778-0997.
After the opening ceremonies, a grand quadrille dance will begin. Throughout the four days of the fair there will be music galore with the native sounds of calypso, quadrille and quelbe filling the grounds. Local bands will play from four locations around the fair grounds.
New to the lineup this year will be the first annual Fair Dominoes Competition. Lewis said the family-oriented atmosphere at the fair would be the perfect setting for a dominoes tournament. He is expecting at least 16 teams to enter, and elimination rounds will take place on the fairgrounds between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The finals will take place on Monday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. There is no entry fee, and prizes will be announced Feb. 1.
The fair will have something for everyone. More than 70 arts and crafts vendors will line the walkways offering unique gifts, jewelry and fabrics. Food and native drinks will be in abundance with more than 50 refreshment areas. This year's food demonstrations will include how to roast fish and make dumb bread. For the kids there will be horseback rides, donkey cart rides, a petting zoo, a children's johnny cake-making contest and kite-making demonstrations.
Come early for the best selection at the farmers market where more than 30 farmers from Antigua, Barbados, BVI, the Dominican Republic, Guyana, Puerto Rico and St. Lucia will display the best from their gardens. The off-island visitors will also display their native arts and crafts, including straw baskets, hats and dolls. All items will be available for sale.
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 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.
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