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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, July 4, 2022


If you give the right kind of party, people will come. And if you ask them to give to a compelling cause, they will come up with the cash. Generously.
That's how the Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park raised $38,000 in one enjoyable evening.
Friends president John Garrison said the "Preserve the Past Gala" held at the home of Jo and Andy Stillman in exclusive Peter Bay on Wednesday, Dec. 29, drew about 150 guests. Tickets were $250, with the proceeds to benefit the Friends' project to display hundreds of Taino artifacts uncovered at Cinnamon Bay excavations in an envionmental heritage center planned for the park.
"So far it's about $38,000, but the money is still coming in," Garrison said Friday. "Everybody had a great time."
The largest Cinnamon Bay dig has been going on for 18 months. Finds include a number of zemis, described by National Park Service archaeologist Ken Wilde as figurines depicting Taino gods. A number of zemis were found within household goods dug up at the site, Wilde said, and their presence indicates the items belonged to a tribal chief.
Garrison said the proceeds from the party will be placed in a bank account, to be joined by other funds as they are raised until enough money is in hand to buy display cases. The overall project "could cost between $200,000 and $300,000," he said.
Construction of the environmental heritage center itself is contingent on the approval of $3 million in federal funding by Congress and President Clinton. A conceptual design for the facility incorporates a roofed orientation amphitheater and four "resource pods" with interactive displays of marine ecology, land ecology, pre-Columbian archeology and post-Columbian cultural history.
The federal funding would be only for construction of the building. Display space within it must be funded privately. Furthermore, federal officials have stated, "Private contributions in hand will positively influence the congressional hearings on appropriations."
The Dec. 29 gala was to raise funds for use within the pre-Columbian archeology pod, to "house precious artifacts unearthed at the St. John archeology digs and educate school children and park visitors about preservation and protection of our extraordinary natural environmental and cultural heritage," a Friends release stated.
Since the dig at Cinnamon Bay began in July 1998, more than 2,000 volunteers have devoted more than 12,000 hours to uncovering artifacts. Friends of the V.I. National Park is "determined to assure cultural artifacts are available for viewing on St. John," the release said. For further information about the project, call the Friends office at 779-4940.

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