St. Croix prepares for Agrifest

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ST. CROIX - The rainbow-colored pinwheels at Rudolph Shulterbrandt Agricultural Complex in Estate Lower Love are up and spinning, tiny harbingers of the upcoming 43rd Annual Agriculture and Food Fair of the Virgin Islands.

The territory's annual celebration of tradition and farming is on its way, set to start its three-day run on Feb. 15 and last through the President's Day weekend.

"I think we're ready. We're just putting some finishing touches on," said Clarice Clarke, spokeswoman for the event, which also is called Agrifest.

Agrifest 2014 is expected to be jam-packed with entertainment, exhibits, arts and crafts vendors, activities for children and adults, contests and food - lots of food.

Livestock, fresh produce and value-added products, such as jams and jellies made from that produce, also will be on display and for sale.

The theme for Agrifest 2014 is "Agriculture: We've always been green."

The family-friendly celebration of local farming, culture, food and fun is scheduled to begin with an opening ceremony at 10 a.m. Feb. 15, followed by a grand quadrille dance with Stanley and the 10 Sleepless Knights in the big tent, Clarke said.

Clarke said there will be some interesting new activities and demonstrations at the fair.

"I think we have shown that we can be creative in offering new activities to Virgin Islanders," she said.

Dumb bread - and which island's bakers are the best at making it - will be the focus of one of the activities on Sunday, Feb. 16.

"It's known that St. Thomians and Tortolians, they make the best dumb bread, supposedly. But the Crucians, we're challenging that," Clarke said. "We want to have a dumb bread challenge and see who will win that title."

Those interested in entering their version of the moist, dense, flavorful bread can do so between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Feb. 16, she said. Judging is scheduled to take place at 3 p.m.

Clarke said organizers hope the competition will be as hotly contested as a Vienna cake competition they ran a few years back.

"St. Croix is known for the best Vienna cake. What it takes is very specific," she said. "St. Thomians don't use the same ingredients. We had that competition years ago and hands-down, the Crucians won."

She said the dumb bread competition bodes well for some added excitement for fair-goers.

Although Agrifest typically features a contest for the best traditional fair wear, this year that contest will focus on hats. A hat parade on the grounds will precede the contest.

The hats, according to Clarke, will have to reflect the "Agriculture: We've Always Been Green" theme.

She said that all the spaces at the fair - vendor spaces, exhibit spaces, food booths, snack booths, the farmers market and livestock pavilion - were filled early on.

"Believe me, the first week that we put out the application in November, it was filled," Clarke said. "We have no more space available."

Saturday's opening ceremony will feature the naming of the farmers of the year, one for livestock and one for crops.

Family-friendly activities for children also are on tap for the entire weekend, including an Ag Olympics and a mini rodeo on Feb. 16.

Clark said the food demonstrations this year include a presentation at 3 p.m. Feb. 15 on making coconut drops and tarts; at 2 p.m. Feb. 16 on various bush teas; and at 3 p.m. Feb. 16 on making smoothies.

At 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 17, Clint Ferris is scheduled to demonstrate making pumpkin-coconut ice cream and sorrel sorbet, she said. At 3 p.m. Feb. 17, Sylvia Ventura is demonstrating making alcapurria.

"We are showing you how to use our fruits and vegetables to make other things, outside the typical uses," Clarke said.

The entertainment for the three-day event is scheduled to include the St. Croix road march champions, Stylee Band; a Grand Quadrille Dance with the Heritage Dancers; the Flambo Combo Band; and an Old School Calypso Show with a tribute to The Mighty Sparrow, she said.

Gates will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Admission is $6 for adults, $4 for seniors and $3 for children.

The event is sponsored by the V.I. Agriculture Department, the University of the Virgin Islands Cooperative Extension Service and the V.I. Tourism Department.

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