Crucian Carnival takes tasty turn with Food Fair

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ST. CROIX - Tantalizing aromas of stews - savory and sweet - seafood and all manner of Crucian cuisine wafted through the air near Frederiksted's Buddhoe Park late Thursday morning as the Crucian Christmas Carnival's Food, Arts and Crafts Fair got under way.

The family-friendly event, which showcases some of the island's best cooks, featured something for most everyone, from fracos, tarts and sugar cakes to roast pork, goat water and conch with butter sauce.

Honoree for this year's Food Fair was Gloria Joseph, for whom the fair was named.

She said she was thankful to God and to three women - Eliza Williams, who raised her; Miss Annie de Chabert, who taught her to make cake; and Dorothy Hicks, her home economics teacher at Christiansted High School - for the influence they had on her life.

With local music setting the tone, local food tempting the palate and local people warmly greeting each other with well wishes for the new year, the Gloria Joseph Food, Arts and Crafts Fair drew a large crowd.

"I came to check out some good food, as well as meet friends," said Novelle Francis Jr. "It's a very good turnout here today."

The former police commissioner said he had already sampled some seafood kallaloo.

"That was just the appetizer, though," Francis said. "I am looking for a plate of fish or conch at this point."

Charlene Bethelmie had sugar cakes, tamarind balls and gooseberry and tamarind stew on offer, in addition to the fracos for which she is known.

"This is something I started long ago," she said of her participation in Food Fair. "I enjoy it. Most of all, it's what I live by."

The ladies of Friedensberg Moravian Church were serving up all kinds of savories in their booth, from roast pork and roast goat to barbeque chicken, fry pot fish and kallaloo.

The pot fish, with all the fixings, was in high demand as hungry fair-goers queued up at the booth.

During the opening ceremony, Assistant Tourism Commissioner Brad Nugent said the Food Fair is an opportunity for everyone to come together to celebrate our culture and food heritage.

Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone said he was pleased to be part of the celebration.

"I'm happy to be part of the history, the culture, the tradition," he said, wishing everyone a happy new year.

Gov. John deJongh Jr. said that every year, Food Fair offers people the opportunity to better understand and appreciate their culture - and the greater involvement each year shows the increasing appetite people have for their culture.

He praised Joseph, saying she displays a spirit and attitude that others should emulate. Others spoke of her cooking skills, her roast pork and her red pea soup.

Joseph was presented with a handmade cultural headdress and a curio shelf before she led the group in cutting the ribbon that marked the official opening of Food Fair.

By that time, though, the feeding frenzy had long since begun.

Hungry fair-goers made the circuit around the booths, checking out the offerings, making their choices and feasting to their hearts' content.

La-Verne Bates was selling all kinds of sweets - cakes, tarts and candies - in her booth.

All things guavaberry - guavaberry rum and guavaberry tart - were popular on Thursday, she said.

Otto Gittens said that the opportunity to see friends is what drew him to Food Fair.

"I am accustomed to all this Crucian food," he said, adding that he was not sure whether he would eat or not. "I came to meet with friends."

Diane Rawlins and her son Kasim Pant came to socialize and to eat.

She said she wanted some kallaloo, while Kasim seemed interested in a fraco.

"I am enjoying it," she said of Food Fair. "I love it. This is a beautiful time. I am so glad that the sun is out and the rain has stopped. I am just making my rounds to say hello. Then I want to eat."

The Crucian Christmas Carnival continues today with Children's Parade, which is scheduled for a 10 a.m. start in Frederiksted.

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