Budget Surprise: $150,000 Request for Special 160th Emancipation Celebration

July 13, 2007 — In an unscheduled, last-minute addition to the agenda, Mary L. Moorhead appeared before the Senate Finance Committee in Frederiksted Friday to make a preliminary request of $150,000 for a special, grander-than-usual 160th Emancipation Day celebration in 2008.
“We are about to celebrate 160 years since emancipation next year,” said Committee Chairman Terrence “Positive” Nelson. “I am happy education about it is starting to spread. I want to emphasize and reemphasize what the day is — to our existence, our culture, in who we are and what we are about to become.”
Nelson had kind words for Moorhead’s work on past Emancipation Day celebrations, and for her detailed record keeping and fiscal accountability.
“I see you’ve given us a breakdown,” Nelson said. “It’s itemized and with support documents, copies of actual receipts from vendors, real proof with supporting documents. I appreciate that.”
Moorhead is president of the History, Culture and Tradition Foundation, which oversaw the recent celebration this year. For 2008, she and the HCTF want to expand and elaborate on the various cultural exhibitions and performances. They also want to incorporate a fireworks display into next year’s event.
Recognizing the territory’s historic ties to Ghana, Moorhead has invited Ghanaian Minister of Tourism Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey to come as the guest of honor.
“He responded favorably,” she said. “Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey is favored to become the next president of Ghana.”
Moorhead said she sees promoting Emancipation on St. Croix not simply as a local event or government holiday, but something for everyone in the territory to celebrate and a vehicle for the development of cultural tourism.
“This is not just an event that happens,” she said. “It is an annual attraction we are hoping to build on every year. To make a growing summer attraction for Frederiksted and the island of St. Croix. … We have to be practical, working toward a St. Croix brand, developing a thirst for historical and cultural tourism.”
The Legislature appropriated $50,000 for this year’s event. Should Moorhead’s sizable increase get approved, part of the funding would go to purchase portable bleachers. Organizers have rented chairs in the past, Moorhead said. By owning bleachers, over time they would save money, she said, and during the year they could rent them out for other functions, generating a little revenue as well.
“That seems reasonable to me, so long as you have a secure place to store them out of the weather,” Nelson said.
“They fit neatly into a Sun Self Storage unit,” Moorhead replied.
The Emancipation Day activities are only one part of her plan.
“Our vision is to create a structured, family-oriented venue, such as Colonial Williamsburg,” she said. “We have the natural and historical resources for a living-history museum in our historic town of Frederiksted, and with the assistance of both the public and private sector, HCTF intends to develop it.”
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