Several of the original vendors who were slated to travel to Denmark in late May pulled out from making the trip, so on arrival in Aarhus I met the only other V.I. vendor, St. Croix architect and artist Gerville Larsen.
It was great to share adjacent tents in the main square with Gerville, who gifted me with an original piece of his artwork. When I learned that no welcome package or name tag had been prepared for me, Gerville created an ID for my use by drawing and coloring the VI flag on paper along with my name so I could feel a part of the festival and mission. As it turned out I was the only participant from St. Thomas.
During the conference calls with participants and organizers in the run-up to the trip, we were told that the Aarhus festival would be held over a three-day period immediately before a long weekend holiday in Denmark during which all the shops closed down.
We were also told to expect 150,000 persons to attend the festivities each day. Well … not anywhere close to so many came through the main square where we were eventually set up. We had as many or more folks at the St. Thomas Food Fair. Oh well!
On Tuesday morning or what should have been the second day of the festival, arrangements had apparently been made to take the Crucian delegation to Vesta, a windmill company located just outside of Aarhus. I accepted the delegate’s invitation to join the group tour.
Although I didn’t see the correlation between this visit and our mission in Aarhus, our hosts were quite gracious and provided the bussed-in visitors with a sumptuous lunch in the cafeteria of their brand new headquarters.
While the concept of wind power is intriguing, the presentation about the technology was rather boring and I noticed several of the youngsters from Music in Motion having as hard a time as I did staying awake. The visit became more interesting when we were taken into a fascinating workroom, given three dimensional glasses to wear and shown a virtual display of the innards of the giant windmills. Really cool!
On the Tuesday afternoon, even though it was brutally cold, windy and rainy, after finding tents on the fringe of the square, Gerville and I set up tables with our products even as festival organizers scurried to complete their preparations for the festival. After a few hours it was clear that no customers were coming, so we packed up and headed back to the warmth of our hotel.
My Danish friends, Annemarie and Verner Thomsen, had cautioned that the actual festival really only happened on the last day. Indeed, on Wednesday beginning around 2 p.m. folks began gathering in the streets and shops in the center of Aarhus. All of the stores offered deep discounts, so by the end of the evening, they were chock full of very happy shoppers.
The surrounding cobbled streets were also filled with exhibitors and food vendors offering street fare. The atmosphere was electric and felt like Christmas Eve in any major metropolitan city in the U.S. Since the sun set around 10:30 pm, this led to a long period of merriment.
A steady stream of performances including those by the specially featured Crucian contingent, Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights and Music in Motion began around 3 in the afternoon at the main staging area in the middle of the square. The only other Caribbean locales represented in the square, were the Little Havana band representing Cuba and a Jamaican chef who owns a restaurant in Aarhus.
Organizers were so determined to create a Caribbean atmosphere that they trucked in gobs of sand and created a “beach” in the middle of the square, complete with bamboo furniture from Ikea and plastic trees. Considering that I was swathed in a sweater, leather jacket and scarf, it was pretty cool to observe Aarhus residents dressed in shorts and T-shirts who were clearly enjoying their summer festival.
By 10 that evening—after sharing tastes of sorrel, mango, passion fruit and sour sop with very appreciative Danes, and a surprise Virgin Islands visitor, Jennifer Jackson— tiredness and a chill to the bone had me fleeing back to my hotel to pack for an early flight back the following morning.
Thanks must be extended to the organizers of the Aarhus Festival 2011, among them, Claus, Robert, and Helle. Special thanks to Delegate Donna Christiansen and her staff,; Leonor Dottin and the staff at SBDC; Novo Nordisk; Edward Thomas at WICO; Rosary Harper; Carlton and Bonnie Alexis; Elsie, Pat and Andre at WSTA Radio; Yanick and Verna at Sea Chest; and my dear longtime friends Sylvene, Jenny, Jackie, Wendy, Melodie, Carole and Lois.
Extra special thanks to my new Danish pals, Annemarie and Verner Thomsen for taking such good care of me from the day I arrived in Aarhus until the day I left for home.
In the final analysis, challenges notwithstanding, the festival in Aarhus was a wonderful experience and one that I will always remember.
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