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HomeNewsLocal newsAgrifest Opens Saturday, Highlighting Heritage and Hope

Agrifest Opens Saturday, Highlighting Heritage and Hope

Mountains of fresh local produce are always a highlight of the Agriculture and Food Fair, like this mound from the 2016 fair.
Mountains of fresh local produce are always a highlight of the Agriculture and Food Fair, like this mound from the 2016 fair.

One of the most popular events in the region – the Agriculture and Food Fair of the U.S. Virgin Islands, or simply Agrifest, opens its doors next Saturday on St. Croix at 9 a.m. to thousands of residents and visitors from around the Caribbean.

Ag Fair, as it is commonly called, embraces agriculture, farming, food, culture and entertainment – the best of any state fair. This year’s theme is Agriculture: Our Heritage and Hope for the Future.

“We’re joining with the rest of the community commemorating the Centennial, celebrating the good things of agriculture, celebrating the hard work of local farmers and enjoying the culture that is uniquely ours,” Agriculture Commissioner Carlos Robles said about this year’s event.

The fair will run from Saturday until 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20, and is held on the sprawling grounds of the Rudolph Schulterbrandt Agriculture Complex in the center of the island. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day.

Every year, the areas of the fairgrounds are renamed in honor of cultural and agricultural leaders. This year, the complex will be called the Janice “Auntie” Tutein Fairgrounds in honor of the iconic local educator and storyteller. The farmers market will bear Rueben Liburd’s name and the livestock pavilion will be retitled for Charlie and Ann Schuster. The food booths will become the Rita Chiverton pavilion in honor of the well-loved cake baker.

Throughout the weekend the odor of roast pork will mingle with the green scent of growing plants, vegetables and fruits and the earthy smell of livestock. The sounds of warm greetings and laughter will fill the air punctuated by live music and children’s games and competition.

The official opening of the Ag Fair will be Saturday at 10 a.m. with Gov. Kenneth Mapp on hand to honor the farmer of the year and the livestock farmer of the year. According to Robles, the winners are a closely guarded secret before the announcement.

There are 80 food and refreshment vendors registered for the event and more than 50 local farmers will display and sell the finest of their produce. Award winning chickens, cattle, sheep and pigs will be on display as well as a petting zoo for children.

In addition to local farmers, visitors from Grenada, St. Kitts, Nevis, Anguilla, Guyana, Antigua and Barbuda will show the best of their produce and spices for sale Sunday and Monday.

The main boulevard linking the food pavilion with the farmers market will be lined with about 100 vendors’ stalls selling jewelry, clothing, art, leather goods and more, according to the commissioner.

Local organizations such as AARP will distribute literature and businesses will pass out incentive items.

Children’s events and competitions are an important part of Agrifest. Schools create displays in the farmers’ market and livestock area, with winners announced Saturday. For the first time, a youth-run agriculture market also will be held Saturday for young farmers to learn about displays and sales. Another first – an Amazing Ag Race for high school students, will be based on the CBS reality television show, “The Amazing Race.”

Music is a big part of the Virgin Islands culture and is featured daily at the Ag Fair. Live music will include Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights, Delyno “Pressure” Browne, Fyah Train, Pumpa and the Unit and others. There will be a gospel show Sunday morning, a Calypso show Sunday afternoon and a performance by the Heritage Dancers.

After buying a plant and a souvenir T-shirt and touring the animal pens, the odors from the food booths will entice fair goers to sample hundreds of local dishes including souse, fungi, kallaloo and goat water. Those with a sweet tooth can savor red grout, coconut and fruit tarts and Vienna cake.

Cooking demonstrations will include “cook-up rice” at 2 p.m. Monday, baccalaitos at 3 p.m. Sunday and on Saturday how to roast fish at 11 a.m. A competition to bake a plain cake in a tropical fruit flavor, without icing, will be held Monday. Competitors can submit their cakes between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. with judging at 3:30 p.m..

Entry fees to the fair are: $12 for an adult three-day pass, $8 for seniors and $6 for children under 12. Adult one-day passes are $6, seniors get in for $4 and children are $3. Robles said ATM’s will be available for the first time in the farmer’s market and food pavilion.

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