It was a day of family fun, music and food, and at the center of it all was a staple of island living – the coconut.
The 4th annual Crucian Coconut Festival was held Sunday at the Estate Bethlehem Sugar Factory on St. Croix. An early morning obstacle course for participants ages 6 and older kicked off the day’s activities, and the main event began at 11 a.m. It was prefaced by a demonstration in the great hall on how to make the coconut oil that is prized by locals and state-siders.
The event’s main focus of the day was the coconut and all the ways it can be used for personal and commercial development. Percival Tahema Edwards, president of the St. Croix Farmers in Action Inc. – organizers of the event – said, “The event’s focus is intended to educate and inspire the community with the wonderful uses of the coconut. … The many benefits of coconuts are being heralded all across the world.”
The Estate Bethlehem Sugar Factory site is also the headquarters for the St. Croix Farmers in Action Inc., which is an activist development group for the industry, said Edwards.
The Crucian Coconut Festival was started in 2016 with the mission of reigniting St. Croix’s economy with the help of coconuts. Today, coconuts remain one of the natural products that can be used to create a wide range of products for the entire world enjoys.
The day was brimming with fun – horseback rides, a children’s crafting area, dance performances by St. Mary’s School Quadrille Dancers, Grove Place Dancers, moko jumbies and live music by Gyasi Clarke, who sang a tribute to Vaughn Benjamin. Young Gifted and Talented band brought the youthful energy of the island while veteran Junie De Chabert (“The Pan Man”) on keyboard continued the vibes. The vendors all had something distinctive to offer, wares, jewelry, beauty products, gifts, toys you name it.
Kayla Morton, a 13-year-old Good Hope Country Day School student, has been crafting candles and soaps since she attended a workshop at Cultured Naturals in 2018. Her line features a wide variety of products including bath salts, salves and candles. Many of her products are infused with coconut oil. At the event, she introduced a specialty candle housed inside the coconut shell. When asked about why she signed up to vend, she said, “I attended last year and I loved it, so this year we saw it as an opportunity to showcase our work and have fun at the same time.”
Shane Dalton, a local attendee, called the festival “an amazing event,” a “wonderful gathering and family friendly event.”
Sisters Natteah Farrell, 21, and Nattejah Farrell, 23, cooked a Coconut Cream Green Banana Soup and Coconut Pie for the festival. Nattejah, who is a vegan chef at UVI, grew up in a “strict vegan household” and remembers, “every Sabbath we would cook food together after church, our whole family. My mother imposed her love of cooking on me and I continued on with it. I came to this event last year and I loved it, I loved the entertainment, so this year we came back and we’re able to offer some special items made with coconut.”
The day drew to a close with the “coconut jelly scoop competition.” Children and adult competitors had five minutes to scoop as much jelly as they could out of young and old coconuts. The crowd watched in suspense as the contestants hustled to get the jelly out of the shells. The task was not easy, as some competitor’s spoons could not scoop the thicker jelly.
The children’s winner came away with a $50 cash prize and the adult winner with $100.
Yvette Jude, a woman who recently moved back to St. Croix, was excited about the festival and raved about the “excellent food, music performances and overall great family time.” As the night came to a close, on the way out, the V.I. National Guard were dancing to tunes blasting from festival speakers as they directed traffic. A good time was had by all.