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Friendship Celebration Wraps Up with Mauby and the Digital Band

Sept. 4, 2007 — The soca was hot and the mauby cold, crisp and just bitter enough as the annual V.I. Friendship Celebration wound up a long Labor Day weekend of Caribbean food, music and dancing Monday at St. Croix’s Agriculture Department fair grounds.
Vendors’ booths lined up around the stage offered traditional Caribbean comfort foods, including pates, goat water, bull foot soup and blood pudding. If mauby was not to your liking, the Fraco man was there and could get you a tamarind-almond, or whatever flavor slushee you favor.
In the evening, the Digital Band pumped out the hits to a smaller crowd than they might have liked. It was a little slow Monday evening, as people on St. Croix wound down after their holiday weekend and prepared to go back to work Tuesday
The festival celebrates the common cultural and historical background shared by the peoples who have lived in the islands of the Eastern Caribbean for the past half a millennium. And it commemorates the contributions of those who came to the Virgin Islands from other Antillean islands.
“We’re here to celebrate all the Caribbean people together,” said Averil George, secretary of the V.I. Caribbean Friendship Committee. “The purpose of the celebration is to bring a link between the people of the Eastern Caribbean, strengthening our common bonds.”
This was the 18th year in a row for the festival, but its roots go back 35 years. Popular St. Croix radio personality George “Bagoon” O’Reilly pushed the legislation through back in 1972 when he was a V.I. Senator.
For “long years past and to this day men and women from throughout the Eastern Caribbean have contributed to the economic, social and political development of the Virgin Islands,” the law reads. “Common bonds of culture, heritage and the desire for increased self-government continue to link all people of the Eastern Caribbean. … These common bonds should be given regular recognition and the friendship which exists between Virgin Islanders and their neighbors in the Caribbean should be nourished.”
The members of the Caribbean Friendship Committee would like to increase popular interest in the celebration and expand participation.
“If we can work together with the different island associations — the St. Kitts Association, the St. Lucie Association, the Trinidad Association and the others — I hope we can make the celebration more successful,” George said.
Pastor Beverly Strange of the Evangelistic Pentecostal Church was there, running a food vending booth with several of her parishioners. They were selling food to raise money to build a church.
“The busiest nights were Saturday and Sunday,” Strange said. “The band on Sunday was Puerto Rican, and they brought out a good crowd.”
That popular band Sunday was Bonny Cepeda y su Orquesta. They played the late set Sunday, preceded first by D.J. Johnny, then by Liquid Sounds.
Strange said she’d like to see each Eastern Caribbean nation highlighted in future events.
“People from St. Kitts, Nevis, Grenada and other islands have had an important impact on Virgin Islands society,” she said.
All batches of mauby are a little bit different, and the mauby at her church’s stand Monday night was as good as it gets: perfectly balanced in its blend of bitter and herbaceous flavors.
The celebration kicked off a week earlier, with a reception and recognition ceremony.
"The friendships between island nations, communities, and peoples from throughout the greater Caribbean contribute immeasurably to the overall wellness and cultural experience of life in the U.S. Virgin Islands," Gov. John deJongh Jr. said. "We are blessed to share a tremendous history and an incredible culture with others in the region, and in coming together in celebration and friendship, we collectively grow and progress." (See “Four Honored to Launch Caribbean Friendship Week.”)
The Caribbean Friendship Committee is sponsoring a calypso competition Oct. 22 at Island Center. That will be its final event for this year.
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