Cultural Fair takes over Emancipation Garden


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ST. THOMAS - It was hard to tell whether the crowd was sweating from the hot sun or the hot pepper - probably both - but everyone was having a great time Wednesday at the 2014 Carnival Cultural Fair.

From creamy gelato to icy fracos, or just a nice cup of homemade tamarind or passionfruit drink, the fair had many ways to help people cool down, too.

The pans played, children danced the quadrille, and hungry people munched on local delicacies such as grilled lobster, seafood kallaloo and pumpkin soup.

This year's fair was named "Charles' and Joe's Flamboyant Garden" in honor of Bordeaux farmers, and brothers, Charles and Joseph Leonard.

Diana and Gary Abney, visiting St. Thomas from New York, sat near Fort Christian eating their grilled Caribbean lobster from The Hot Shot food truck. They were enjoying their first Carnival experience, especially the food, they said.

"I haven't had anything bad," Diana Abney said. "I want to stay."

Friends Maxine Charles and Julie Samuel were looking forward to eating the food they picked up at the event - barbecue chicken, potato stuffing, macaroni and cheese and whelks and rice - and running into old friends who always come out of the woodwork for food fair day. "You get to meet people you haven't seen in a while," Charles said.

St. Croix farmer Grantly Samuel was selling wax apples, cucumbers, tomatoes and other veggies in the produce and plants section of the fair.

"I've come for Carnival a few times, but I've never done the food fair," he said.

Sharing his booth were second generation St. Croix beekeepers and siblings, Roniel and Tiona Allembert, who were handing out samples of waxy honeycomb soaked in sweet, golden honey.

"It's delicious," said St. John resident Diane Cameron.

Cameron and a friend decided to come over for the food fair after missing it for many years.

"It's great," she said. "We'll be going home with some stuff."

The Lockhart Elementary Emerald Thumb Garden Club made their debut at the Cultural Fair on Wednesday, selling plants and herbs. The club has been around a while but is stepping up its game this year under the leadership of teachers Juelis Hodge and Latanya Huggins.

"This year we just came out bursting with energy," Hodge said.

Next to teaching, Hodge's favorite thing is working with plants, and she has been sharing that love with her students. The gardening club is made up of 20 boys, many of whom needed a little extra guidance and attention.

"If you're active in the garden, you're not in trouble," she said.

She has also helped other teachers set up small gardens outside their classrooms.

Wednesday, the club was selling lemongrass, chocolate mint basil, bok choi and many other seedlings.

In the center of Emancipation Garden, many vendors offered homemade items - from soap and beauty products to arts and crafts.

Yolanda Morton came over from St. John to sell her crafts and jewelry. Dressed in a red madras outfit she made the night before, Morton said arts and crafts is a survival skill that should be taught to the territory's youth.

"That way, they always have something to fall back on," she said.

Morton makes earrings from the monkey-no-climb tree seed pods, curly wooden pieces topped with beads. She also makes earrings, necklaces, purses and belts from coconut, sea shells and woven seagrass.

A very energetic Velma Cruz-Drew was handing out samples of her preserves, pickles, wines and hot sauces as fast as she could.

"Every fruit you can think about, it's all here," she said to the crowd gathered at her booth. "You want a taste?"

Creative combinations of spicy and sweet had customers snapping up treats such as golden apple pickles, hot guava preserves, tamarind chutney and yellow plum wine.

Laurence Smith was looking for the best place to grab a bite while soaking up the local culture. Visiting friends for Carnival, the New Yorker said he has been enjoying the island and the annual celebrations.

"It's something new. I escaped the concrete jungle to paradise," he said. "I'm looking to have a good time."

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

Cakes and Pastries

Winner - Audrey Henry

1st Runner-up - Natasha Wright

Plants

Winner - Gladys Abraham Elementary School Garden Club

1st Runner-up - Joseph Leonard

Arts and Crafts

Winner - Erie Mathias

1st Runner-up - Afrekan Southwell and the St. Thomas-St. John Woodworking Society

Produce

Winner - Charles Leonard

Special Food Contest (pumpkin soup)

Winner - Evelyn Lloyd

Best-dressed Participant

Winner - Rhonda Belgrave

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