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Transfer Day Celebrated in St. Croix's Rain Forest

March 31, 2005 — Denmark and St. Croix have shared a history since the early 1700s. Thursday marked the 88th anniversary of the transfer of the Danish West Indies to the United States of America. At a ceremony in St. Croix's west end rain forest, Danes, Crucians of Danish ancestry and others spoke of emerging from the "dark years" of slavery to an age of light, characterized by renewed relations between the Danish Crown and its former possession.
Surrounded by the historic buildings of the Lawaetz family museum and centuries-old trees, the Friends of Denmark and the St. Croix Landmark Society conducted their annual Transfer Day ceremonies. More than 200 people came to witness the 88th anniversary of the Danish transfer of St. Croix to the United States of America. Sprinkles of rain continued throughout the event, and most of the witnesses to the proceedings were seated under the shelter of a large canopy tent.
The official transfer of the Danish West Indies to the United States took place at 4 p.m. on March 31, 1917 – simultaneously on all three islands. Transfer Day has been commemorated ever since and is also known as Danish Heritage Day in order to highlight the common history and culture.
Delegate Donna M. Christensen, chronicled the history of St. Croix, from agriculture based, to tourism and technology. She credited Denmark for their human rights efforts around the world and their willingness to foster good relations with their former possession. Christensen said Denmark is seeking ways to assist St. Croix in the areas of education, repatriation of historical documents, restoration of historical buildings, economic development, and alternative energy.
"The history and culture of the Danish influence on St. Croix remains to this day," said Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards. "Denmark has shaped the territory's unique culture, especially on St. Croix. We are kindred spirits." Richards commented on the success of the Danish charters to St. Croix which began on April 4, 2004 and was announced at last year's transfer day ceremonies. "There were over 1,500 overnight stays in 2004," Richards said.
Richards said additional cultural and sports exchanges between Denmark and St. Croix will be forthcoming. "These exchanges," Richards said, "would bind the old to the young generations."
The keynote speaker for the day, Arnold "Morty" Golden, whose father was born in Denmark, told tales of his family both on St. Croix and Denmark exchanging culture and information while visiting each other. He welcomed back the relatives of Danish settlers to St. Croix where the "history reflects the distinguished heritage" of Denmark and Africa. "These towns welcome you," he said.
Lief Petersen, Friends of Denmark cultural exchange president, talked more about exposing the two regions to each others' culture. He said a cultural exchange for the performing arts has been established. "We will send groups and individuals to Denmark and host their groups here," Petersen said. The project has been "blue stamped" by the Danish Ministry and the V.I. Tourism Department . The quelbe band, Stanley and Ten Sleepless Knights will be the first recipient of this program, Petersen announced.
The band will travel to Denmark in August "to introduce Denmark to real quelbe music," Petersen said. In January 2006 the Danish Chamber Ensemble will perform at Island Center for the Performing Arts and conduct a children's workshop.
N'Qwanda Williams, an 11-year-old a student at the Pearl B. Larsen School, gave a short biography of the Danish children's book writer, Hans Christian Anderson. Afterward she read an amusing local adaptation of "The Princess and the Pea" called, "The Real Princess."
Music was provided by Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights and Bill Bass on his steel pans. The Joyful Voice Community Choir performed several numbers. The Pearl B. Larsen quadrille group drew appreciative applause with their display of the traditional dance. The "Good to Chew" catering group of the St. Croix Educational Complex provided a buffet for the event.
Mistress of ceremonies for the event was Winifred "Oyoko" Loving Westerman.

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