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HomeNewsArchivesCakes, Pastries, Preserves and Veggies: Crowds Take in Cultural and Food Fair

Cakes, Pastries, Preserves and Veggies: Crowds Take in Cultural and Food Fair

April 23, 2008 — Almost from the minute it opened at 8 a.m. Wednesday, hundreds of residents and visitors packed the cultural and food fair, eager to sample the abundance of delicious dishes, homemade crafts and unique treats offered by a sea of local chefs and artisans.
Paying homage to the famous green thumb of Ruth Anthony, this year's fair in Emancipation Garden was dubbed "Ruth's Tropical Garden." Setting up shop at the front of the fairgrounds, Anthony's booth — which took the award for Best Plants — featured a wide array of sweet-smelling flowers, trees and herbs such as thyme and tarragon.
"I've been around plants all the days of my life," said Anthony, dressed in traditional madras. "I always say that plants are just like children — you have to spend quality time with them, take care of them. But if you can't take care of them, then you shouldn't get a plant."
Other vendors, such as Eustace and Ingrid James, tilled their crops for months in preparation for sale at Wednesday's fair. The hard work seemed well worth the effort, as their booth showcased full heads of leafy green bok choy, figs, papaya, soursop and sugar cane plucked from their garden in Bordeaux.
"If agriculture got the good treatment, it could do real well in the Virgin Islands," Ingrid James said. "But for that to happen, you have to have everyone interested in seeing it grow."
The booth is called "Strength and Courage," Ingrid said, describing the relationship between her and her husband.
The St. Thomas-St. John Woodworkers Society made its first appearance at the annual food fair, showing off three tables laden with pots, bowls, toys and games carved from local mahogany, genip, seagrape, mango and tibit trees.
"Our organization got started almost a year ago," explained Afreekan Southwell, renowned local artist and painter. "So far we've been able to do a woodworking expo at the university and connect with four different events with our local woodworkers on St. Croix. But I think a lot of people are still surprised that all this we've made here comes from local trees."
Some of the pieces — such as a potpourri bowl made from a tibit tree — often take months to make, explained wood artist William F. Johnson.
"It takes a lot of time and a lot of love," he said.
At the far end of Emancipation Garden, V.I. Miniatures owner Granville Christopher showed off his woodworking skills, with doll house-like models of St. Thomas landmarks and historical figures carved from wood found on island. The business was born after Granville's daughter asked him to help out with a school project.
"I built her a little model of a Virgin Islands home," he said. "When I saw what I did, I knew it was something that I wanted to continue on with, so I started V.I. Miniatures after I retired from the police force. Each piece reflects my experiences in the Virgin Islands, and for materials I use whatever I find that I think can work for me. This is my past, but from what I've created, it can last for a lifetime."
One of Christopher's miniatures was a mahogany-and-glass replica of the Sanderilla Thomas Bungalow in Market Square.
"When I went there as a boy, I remember thinking that the bungalow was the biggest shopping mall I had ever seen," he said. "I also did a miniature of the store my mother had when I was a child, and little coal workers made out of the seeds that drop off the mahogany trees."
Other arts and crafts — including locally made sandals, soaps and candles — were heavy favorites with the crowds. But the food booths drew the most attention, of course. In every corner, tables laden with V.I. staples such as macaroni and cheese, stewed chicken and conch soup blended in with an abundance of cakes, pastries, preserves and fresh-grown veggies.
Near the entrance to Vendor's Plaza, Carmen and Roland Liverpool pulled in customers with their own professionally bottled stewed tamarind, cherry and mango preserves, along with tamarind balls sugared right at the table.
"I got no sleep last night," Carmen Liverpool joked, as she explained the stewing process. "It's a lot of work, but I've been doing it for 30 years now, and I love it."
This year's Cultural/Food Fair winners:
Best Plants
Ruth Anthony
Best Cakes and Pastries
First place: Erie Miller
First Runner Up: Michelle Nibbs
Best Arts and Crafts
First Place: Tulip Fleming
First Runner Up: Esther Frett
Best Produce
First Place: Martha Jolly and Milian Jean Baptiste
First Runner Up: Crescent Charles
Best Culturally Dressed
Dorothy James
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