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Food Fair Provides Island Treats for Locals and Visitors Alike

Jan. 4, 2007 — Every year during festival, the Food Fair gives residents and visitors to St. Croix a chance to sample native foods and desserts.
This year the fair did not disappoint, as happy patrons patiently lined up Thursday at the Ann Heyliger Vegetable Market in Frederiksted to sample foods from their favorite vendors, while catching up with friends they haven't seen in some time.
The pulsating calypso beats of the Image Band flowed through the streets as young and old munched and mingled, greeting each other with hugs and squeals of delight. "This is a large part of local culture," said Bradley Christian, who has been organizing the fair for the past 15 years.
Patrons were able to purchase plates of food teeming with seasoned or white rice, barbeque chicken, johnny cakes, macaroni and cheese, oxtails, fried fish, crab and rice, saltfish, conch in butter sauce, salmon balls and seafood kallaloo, along with sweet cakes and traditional preserves, including stewed tamarind and gooseberry treats.
This year's fair was dedicated to Ireece Joseph, who has been selling her preserves at the fair since 1997. Joseph said she felt "blessed" to be honored and that her favorite part of the fair is the people. "I go to St. Thomas to take part in the Agricultural Fair there, and I see a lot of people from St. Thomas here today."
Christian said the fair brings the towns on the island together to meet and mingle with those who live abroad. "People from Christiansted and Frederiksted get together with people from St. Thomas and the mainland to look for local foods they can't get anywhere else."
Christian said he is involved in the fair year after year to ensure that visitors and returning Virgin Islanders are able to get a taste of the foods they love. "When visitors come from away, they are looking for local foods they can't get anywhere else," he said.
Many vendors, dressed in traditional madras prints, sported easy smiles as they catered to the needs of customer after customer.
LaVerne Bates has been tempting the island's sweet tooth at the fair for nine years. Bates agreed with Joseph, saying the best part of the fair is the people. "They're eager to come and get what they can."
Bates was so consumed by customers she was unable to do much more than serve her delicious sweets. "It's been like this all day," she said.
Former Sen. Lilliana Belardo de O'Neal and her crew have been feeding the community during the festival for more than 30 years. Belardo said the Latin community makes up 40 percent of the population and has kept its traditions while making an impact on the rest of the community.
For years, Belardo's booth, El Coqui, has been a regular sight in the festival village. This year Belardo decided to take a break, much to the disappointment of her regular customers.
"People were calling me at home to find out if everything was OK and wondering if I was sick." Belardo told her regulars she was just taking a break and reassured them she would be back next year.
Food was not the only thing on the menu at the fair. Sarajane Mace, owner of the Asha boutique, busily manned her tent bursting with one-of-a-kind clothes and jewelry. Mace said she got involved with the fair three years ago because "it's a really good local event."
St. Croix residents Antoinette James and Angela Jerome have attended the fair for longer than they could remember. Sifting through Mace's wares, the pair said the best parts of the fair are the people and the music.
"We're seeing people we haven't seen in a long time who live on the island," Jerome said. "People are in better spirits," said James. "They are festive."
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