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Mango Melee a Mouth-Watering Success

July 1, 2007 — "The crowd has been huge, absolutely huge," said Lesley Hoffman, St. George Village Botanical Gardens' administrative director, Sunday at Mango Melee Festival. She added that everyone – visitors, vendors, and participants – was happy with the weather and the turnout.
The crowds were so large around events, such as the mango-eating contest, that getting spots to view the action was difficult. It was held on the front lawn of the great house with seating on the grassy hillside. This year, two competitions were held, one for children 12 and under and one for adults.
The competitors wore garbage bags, since the mangos were juicy. The contestants had to clean the seed and skin and eat the mango using only one hand in the timed race. In the children's competition, Osei Wallace came in first eating five large mangos, and Josiah Boirard was second polishing off four mangos.
A highlight of the festival, "Mango 'Dis, Mango 'Dat," a cooking competition in its third year, is open to any cook featuring mangos as the main ingredient. Joann White, a registered dietician at Juan F. Luis Hospital, was one of the judges for the sweets and desserts. White said, "I don't know why they had me testing the sweets. I did my judging on the most mango flavor, presentation and creativity. They had everything from mango coffee cake to a mango rum cake." More than 50 entrants participated.
Marilyn Chakroff sold 250 tickets at a dollar each for samples of creations in "Mango 'Dis Mango 'Dat." She said, "I sold more tickets this year than what I gave free last year. The food was incredible and so creative."
The winners in the "Mango 'Dis Mango 'Dat" contest were:
Sauces and Salsas – First, Mary Edwards with a hot mango chutney; second, Leo Dikinis with a mango pepper sauce.
Desserts and Sweets – First, Edward Liversdye with a mango grecia; second, Keshia Shilingford with a mango cheesecake.
Sips and Drinks – First, Fiona Rutherford with a drink called Mango dis Good; second, Jacqueline Kowalski with a mangotini.
First and second place winners each received a certificate and Mango Melee apron with first place awarded $50 and second $25.
A tropical leaf identification competition was held during the afternoon.
Demonstrations and workshops took place all afternoon at the Bodine Visitors Center. One of the most popular demonstrations with the children was ice cream being made by Clint Parris from the University of the Virgin Islands. Paris said, "I like to do something educational with the children at these demonstrations. Cooking is science in action, engaging all five senses." Parris added, "Most kids like to cook and they all like to eat ice cream."
Workshops were also held on mango production, making local fruit juices and business success with tropical fruit.
Residents, who were not eating food and drinking sweet, cold, fruit drinks, were often seen carrying plants purchased at the nursery plant sale.
Among the large assortment of vendors set up on the footpaths:
— Mariel J de Chabert-Percy, owner, designer of Eden South, was selling Coconut Canine Cookies and T-shirts she designed with local trees.
–Local artisan Veronica Gordon offered items made from calabash, such as birdhouses.
–Local fabric designer Yemaya Jones was selling her rainbow colored tie-dyed and batik garments. Jones said, "This is a good event for visitors."
–V.I. Honeycomb winery was selling Mango Tangerine, a sparkling honey wine.
Numerous food vendors were selling local favorite dishes to eat in or take out.
Sarah Smith, of UVI's 4-H program, led numerous children in fun and energetic games for four hours under a tent on the great lawn. DJ Johnny played all types of popular songs.
Hour-long, guided garden tours were given of the Botanical Gardens, which has 16 acres of paths with over 1,500 native and exotic species of plants to view in and around the restored buildings of a 19th century Danish sugar cane plantation. Featured in the great house were colorful displays of more than 90 varieties of mangos, bananas and plantains.
None of the fruit on display went to waste. A silent auction of the luscious fruit was held toward the end of the festival.
Hoffman said, "I'm sure we will have exceeded last year’s festival."
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