The Cacique Awards recognize individuals and organizations who positively impact the Bahamian tourism industry. The award was accepted by current festival committee chairperson, Annabelle Roberts Cross.
That the festival was recognized this year is especially appropriate, given that 2017 marks the 40th anniversary of the very first Island Roots Heritage Festival.
It’s also fitting that Annabelle Cross was the person who accepted the award, since she’s been involved with Island Roots since the very first festival.
The original Island Roots Heritage Festival was the brainchild of Bahamian artist and historian, Alton Lowe.
Shortly after Alton launched Green Turtle Cay’s Albert Lowe Museum in November 1976, Florida historian Betty Bruce asked him what he had planned next.
From their conversation evolved the idea of a festival commemorating the shared Loyalist heritage of the residents of Key West and New Plymouth, and giving them an opportunity to reconnect with long-lost relatives.
Less than a year later, in November 1977, thousands of people attended a four-day-long Island Roots Heritage Festival in Key West. The next day, many boarded planes for three more days of festivities on Green Turtle Cay.
At both events, participants were treated to concerts, plays and comedy and dance performances, all celebrating their common ancestry. Recognizing their shared history, and with the support of the Bahamian and U.S. governments, Green Turtle Cay and Key West proclaimed themselves sister cities.
In 2004, the Island Roots Heritage Festival was revived as an annual event, held the first full weekend in May at Settlement Point on Green Turtle Cay. Each year, hundreds of locals and visitors attend the three-day festival, which features traditional Bahamian food, art, music and performances.
Ironically, because 2017 is an election year in the Bahamas (long story), there’s no Island Roots festival next month. But hopefully it will be back as usual May 4-6, 2018.
In the meantime, Key West residents plan to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the original Island Roots Heritage Festival with a three-day event, May 19-21. You can learn more about it from their Facebook page. I’m sorry to miss it, but I hope that those who go will take lots of photos and videos for the archives.
And congratulations again to the organizing committee and volunteers of Green Turtle Cay’s Island Roots Heritage Festival. It’s wonderful to see all of your hard work rewarded!