Echoes of Idyllic Island Summers

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, children, travelA few weeks back, I noticed this group of boys playing on a wooden raft along New Plymouth’s south beach. Though the origins of said raft were dubious – two boys said they made it, two said they found it – their joy was not. They paddled around the shallows near the south beach dock, tying up and untying the raft, tossing out and hauling in its small anchor.

IMG_6243bbWatching them reminded me of the times we spent on Green Turtle Cay during summer vacation, and how much freedom we had.

My cousins and I could meander through town at any hour without worry or harm. We had no television or phone, smart or otherwise. There were no video games, no DVD player, no iPod. Instead, we played outside. We used our imaginations. If we wanted to go somewhere, we walked. Both ways. Uphill. In four feet of snow. Yes, ok, I made up that last part. But the rest is true.

We hunted baby crabs on the Settlement Creek shore and collected sand dollars at Gillam Bay. We swam near the public dock and fished with tiny hooks and thread, using crushed snails for bait. In the evenings, we walked around New Plymouth, searching for night-blooming jasmine.

Nearly four decades later, surprisingly little has changed. It’s true that local residents now enjoy modern conveniences like telephones, cable television and even Internet. But technology aside, and unlike so many other places, Green Turtle Cay has managed to retain much of its innocence and charm.

Kids, some as young as five or six, still play unsupervised on the town basketball court or nearby beaches. They make (or find…?) rafts and become pretend pirates. They abandon skateboards, bikes and basketballs wherever they fall, confident they’ll still be there when school lets out tomorrow.

Though they occasionally forget their toys, Green Turtle Cay kids usually remember their manners. Even the smallest child will whisper a bashful “hello” or “good afternoon.”

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, children, summer vacation

In case their parents are reading this, these mini-mariners were no exception. They bade me good evening and answered my questions with “yes, ma’am” and “no, ma’am.”

I watched them play for quite a while, enjoying the reassurance that, especially for kids, Green Turtle Cay remains as idyllic as I remember.

bahamas, children, abaco, green turtle cay, summer vacation

Daily Photo: June 16, 2014

My husband will probably roll his eyes when he hears this, but I’ve shot more than 15,000 photographs in Green Turtle Cay and around Abaco in the past twelve months alone. What can I say? I subscribe to the “quantity leads to quality” school of thought — the more photos I take, the greater my chances of getting one I’m happy with.

To justify what some might regard as an abuse of megapixels, I’ve decided to share some of my favourite images through a daily photo feature.

Here’s the first one, a seagull diving for fish in Black Sound. Hope you like it.

bahamas, green turtle cay, travel, abaco, birds, wildlife

© 2014 Amanda Diedrick

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Green Turtle Cay 101: Dining Here

This is the fourth installment in the Green Turtle Cay 101 series. Previous sections include: GTC 101: An Introduction, GTC 101: Getting Here and GTC 101: Staying Here.

Chicken Wrap with Fried Plantain at the Lizard Bar & Grill

Chicken wrap with fried plantain and coleslaw at the Lizard Bar & Grill

For an island its size, Green Turtle Cay offers a relatively wide range of dining options. They include:

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McIntosh Restaurant and Bakery – Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, McIntosh is located on the right as you come down the hill into the settlement. Daily specials are posted outside and a full menu is also available. Denise McIntosh makes some of the best desserts on the cay — our favourites are her key lime pie and guava cheesecake. Friday night at McIntosh is Lobster Fest, with Bahamian lobster cooked a dozen different ways.

Mo Mo's Suga' Shack

Mo Mo’s Suga’ Shack

MoMo’s Suga’ Shack is the most recent addition to New Plymouth’s culinary offering. Melissa “Mo Mo” Albury serves fresh coffee, delicious cakes and pastries, sandwiches, quiche, fresh-baked bread, ice cream, milkshakes and more. Mo Mo’s is open daily except Sunday.

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Two Shortys

Two Shortys – On the western end of Crown Street, which runs parallel to the settlement’s south shore, Two Shortys offers great Bahamian takeout food. They also have a few picnic tables if you’d prefer to eat in.

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Sundowners Bar & Restaurant – Further west on Crown Street, Sundowners Restaurant is open on weekends, offering a mix of Bahamian and American dishes. (The night we went, they had a great assortment of fresh, local seafood.) Just beyond the restaurant, on the waterfront, Sundowners Bar is open daily and serves a selection of pub-type food.

Plymouth Rock Liquors and Cafe

Plymouth Rock Liquors and Cafe

Plymouth Rock – You have to get there early to get a seat in this tiny cafe, but it’s worth it. Breakfast and lunch are served daily except Sunday. Friday and Saturday nights, visitors and locals gather at Plymouth Rock for cocktails and conversation. The restaurant is near the freight dock at the western end of Parliament Street.

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Dining on the beach at Harvey’s

Harvey’s – Situated on the shore of Settlement Creek, Harvey’s serves lunch and dinner daily except Sunday. Specials are posted on a board out front, with a surprisingly varied menu also available. Mondays are pizza and wing night and they occasionally offer Italian, steak and rib, and sushi nights. You can dine inside the air-conditioned restaurant or outside on the beach.

Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar – Though many Bahamian establishments have attempted to recreate the Goombay Smash cocktail, only its inventor, the late “Miss Emily” Cooper and her family members know the real recipe. Since Miss Emily’s passing, her daughter, Violet, and granddaughter, Misty, operate her world-famous Blue Bee Bar. In recent years, they’ve added a charming little restaurant, adjacent to the bar. Miss Emily’s is located across from the basketball court in town.

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Wrecking Tree – Just a few minutes’ walk east of the town ferry dock, the Wrecking Tree offers Bahamian fare for dining in or takeout. Their screened dining porch offers a terrific view of Settlement Creek.

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Poolside at Pineapples

Pineapples – One of the best spots from which to watch tropical sunsets, Pineapples offers casual dining beside a saltwater pool and, on Fridays, live music. To get to Pineapples, turn north at the Wrecking Tree and follow the signs.

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Live music by the Island Boyz at the Lizard Bar and Grill

Just a few minutes north of the settlement is the Lizard Bar and Grill at the Leeward Yacht Club. Perched on a rise overlooking Black Sound, the Lizard is a lovely, breezy spot to enjoy a casual lunch or sunset dinner.  There’s a great pool for swimming and lounging, and some evenings, they offer live music.

Further north, on White Sound, you’ll find the Green Turtle Club and, further along the west side of the sound, Bluff House.

Bahamas, Green Turtle Cay, Abaco, Travel

Green Turtle Club Dining Porch

The Green Turtle Club offers a large, screened dining porch plus a slightly more formal indoor dining room. I’m especially partial to their tuna sashimi appetizer and their black and white tuna entrée. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served seven days a week.

Also serving three meals daily is Bluff House’s nautical-themed Jolly Roger Restaurant, located on the White Sound side of the property. Over the hill, on the shore of the Sea of Abaco, is the relatively new Tranquil Turtle Beach Bar.

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Tranquil Turtle Beach Bar at Bluff House (photo: http://www.bluffhouse.com)

A few notes about dining in Green Turtle Cay:

  • Some restaurants automatically add a 15% gratuity, others don’t. We’ve found that even within the same restaurant, some servers add the tip while others don’t, so best to make a habit of checking the bill. There is no tax on restaurant meals in the Bahamas, so if you see an amount indicated as “tax”, it’s almost certainly a gratuity.
  • The dress code for most places on the cay is fairly casual, though the Green Turtle Club tends to be slightly more formal. At a minimum, most require shoes and some sort of cover up.
  • Most restaurants use either rain water or city water. Theoretically, both are safe to drink, though most locals don’t recommend drinking the city water and local wisdom says rain water can cause stomach upset if you’re not used to drinking it. Long story short, best to err on the side of caution and ask for bottled water.
  • The above descriptions reflect current restaurant operating hours and offerings. These are subject to change, depending on the season.

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About Those Fish Hooks…

A guest post, from my husband, Tom Walters.

For some on Green Turtle Cay, our little house by the ferry will always be thought of as “Miss May’s.” And their memories of Amanda’s great-grandmother, May Curry, have a recurring theme.

At a time when many people cobbled together a livelihood in a variety of entrepreneurial ways, Miss May sold fish hooks to the local children. Almost without exception, those old enough to remember her at all remember buying them from her. As Amanda described in her first post on this site, this made the idea of calling the house “Fish Hooks” irresistible to us.

An actual fish hook sold by my great-grandmother, May Gates Curry. Model ship builder Vertrum Lowe recently discovered the hook -- in its original container -- among his treasures from the past, and has kindly donated them to the Albert Lowe Museum.

An actual fish hook sold by Amanda’s great-grandmother, May Curry. Model ship builder Vertrum Lowe recently discovered the hook in its original wooden container among his treasures from the past, and has kindly donated them to the Albert Lowe Museum.

But there is one detail of this story I have struggled to understand.

Miss May’s former customers would often tell of using her tackle and their mothers’ sewing thread to go after bait fish in the harbour. And, occasionally pointing to the nails on their baby fingers, they would describe how small the hooks were. “Tiny shad hooks,” they would say.

That’s where the story stopped making sense. Tiny shad hooks? They might as well have said “pocket-size pickup trucks.”

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The thing is, I once had the privilege of casting for shad on Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie River with Dennis Grant of the Atlantic Fly Fishing School. So the shad I know is a big brute of the herring family. Like the salmon, it goes upriver to spawn. And, like the salmon, it is a thrilling fighter. Five or six pounds of line-stripping rage.

So, while kids jigging for shiners off the New Plymouth dock made perfect sense to me, the idea that fish hooks of pinkie-nail size were designed for shad was a contradiction I could not reconcile.

At least, not until I saw this fascinating post about bonefish on the Rolling Harbour Abaco blog.

Citing research work by the Cape Eleuthera Institute and the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, it explains how juvenile bonefish may improve their chances for survival by blending in with schools of tiny mojarras. Which, I now learn, are known in the Bahamas as “shad.”

And so the light bulb comes on.

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Mojarras, or, as they’re known in the Bahamas, shad. Photo credit: Cape Eleuthera Institute

It is not the first time, of course, that I have noticed regional variations in the common names of fish. For example, the species known in most of the world as “turbot” – and that was once at the center of a shooting war between Canada and Spain – is a cold water flatfish like a halibut. In Bermuda, the Bahamas, and parts of the Caribbean, however, “turbot” is widely used to refer to triggerfish. (Which, you’d think, would have been more likely to inspire an exchange of gunfire.)

In any case, I can finally recount the story of Miss May selling “tiny shad hooks” without confusion, because I now know they were not meant for the creatures I met on the Shubenacadie. And because it makes far more sense here on Green Turtle Cay than saying “mojarra hooks.”

Our Junkanoo Wedding

Unless otherwise noted, all photos by Randy Curry, Green Turtle Cay.

Hard to believe it’s been so long, but seven years ago today, Tom and I were married on the beach at Green Turtle Cay’s Gillam Bay. bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, junkanoo wedding

You’d think that planning a destination wedding — especially on such a small island — would be stressful, but the truth is, it simplified the process. Once we boarded the plane, we just let go. There’s no Macy’s or Michael’s on the cay. No point fussing over anything we left behind. What we didn’t have, we would have to do without.

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, junkanoo, wedding

Most of our wedding party stayed at Roberts’ Cottages, which were ideal for a large group. Three simple but spacious cottages, each with a large screened porch, right on the shore of Black Sound. There’s a dock for ferry pickups and drop offs, and though we were within easy walking distance of town, the large, tree-lined property felt incredibly private. As we hoped it would, Robert’s Cottages quickly became wedding central, with guests dropping by all week to visit and enjoy a cup of coffee or a Kalik.

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Some of our wedding favours – locally made guava and pineapple jam in straw baskets, and mini Junkanoo cowbells. Photo: Dawn Drewry

Though the weather on the Monday we arrived was beautiful, by Wednesday, we were experiencing near-monsoon conditions. Let’s just say the extra-large garbage bags I brought along served us well. They became waterproof containers for wedding decorations and party favours, and seat covers for golf carts. My Mom and cousin even used them to fashion some very stylish rain gear.

Bachelor Party

Tom’s Bachelor Party Photo: Rachel Diedrick

Thursday brought a new group of arriving guests, Tom’s bachelor party at Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar and — thankfully! — glorious sunshine.

We had invited guests to drop by our cottage for Friday evening cocktails to kick off the wedding weekend. It was a gorgeous, starry night and we went to bed relieved to have dodged a bad-weather bullet.

Saturday morning, I got up early and opened the blinds. It was pouring. Not a little drizzle. Not a light shower. Heavy, dark clouds and fat, stinging raindrops. All the brave things I’d said during the week (“Don’t worry, we have a rain plan,” “We can’t control the weather,” “It’s not where we get married that’s important,” blah blah blah…) went out the window. I wanted to get married outside, on the beach, at Gillam Bay.

After a good cry and a lot of comforting from Tom, I hopped in the golf cart and headed to Gillam Bay. I sat in the rain and made peace with the idea that after months of planning, and with so many friends and relatives making the journey to join us for a beach wedding, we’d be getting married indoors.

As I drove back toward town, the rain seemed to ease a little. The clouds seemed brighter than before. By 11 a.m., small patches of blue began to appear. And by 1 p.m. – the deadline for pulling the plug on the outdoor ceremony – the sky was all but clear.

Two-and-a-half hours later, escorted by our flower girl, Jade, my Dad and a Junkanoo parade, I walked up a sandy “aisle” to meet Tom.

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, junkanoo, wedding

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, wedding, junkanoo

Our Gillam Bay wedding was low-key and laid back, just the way we wanted it.

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, junkanoo, weddingAfter the ceremony, the Junkanoo dancers and band performed for our guests, many of whom had never before seen this rhythmic and colourful Bahamian tradition.

Before heading to Bluff House to join our guests, Tom and I took a little drive through town.bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, junkanoo, wedding

It was nice to have a few minutes to ourselves to absorb all the day’s excitement and to enjoy New Plymouth on our special day. It was even more fun to do it in our wedding clothes, with all the town children waving to us and following the golf cart.

Our reception was held in the Bluff House conservatory — which, sadly, has been damaged by hurricanes in recent years. But that night, it was beautifully decorated with huge, white paper lanterns and gauzy curtains billowing in the breeze. We enjoyed a Bahamian buffet of grilled lobster, ribs and chicken, peas ‘n’ rice, potato salad, johnny cake and more — all delicious.

After dinner, toasts and cake cutting, we all danced outside, under the stars. A light rain began late in the evening, putting an earlier end to the reception than we’d planned, but given how fortunate we’d been earlier with the weather, we didn’t dare complain.

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Photo: Daniel Drewry

Without a doubt, our favourite part of the wedding was having the opportunity to spend the entire week with family and friends from all over North America, and to introduce them to each other and to Green Turtle Cay. It wasn’t an easy or inexpensive trip to make, and we were grateful so many were able to join us.

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, junkanoo, wedding

I’ll write a follow-up post soon about the nuts and bolts of getting married on Green Turtle Cay.

In the meantime, happy seventh anniversary to my husband, Tom Walters. Thank you for giving me the wedding of my dreams and a wonderful life every day since.

 How we pulled off our dream destination wedding on a tiny island in the Bahamas.

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Grasping at Straws: Plaiting a Path Out of Poverty

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Straw worker, Rose McKenzie, weaves dried strips of palm fronds into plait

Of all the Bahamian artisans I met at this year’s Island Roots festival, one of my favourites was Rose McKenzie.

Rose told me that, as young girls in Exuma, she and her sister, Neuiza Rolle, learned traditional straw work from their mother. The hats and baskets they produced provided vital funds for their family during difficult economic times.

My grandmother, Lurey Curry Albury, told a similar tale.

Early in the 20th century, Green Turtle Cay’s economy suffered several devastating blows. Its lucrative pineapple industry dried up when Cuba began exporting the fruit, and the U.S. annexed Hawaii, creating its own domestic supply. A burgeoning sponge industry was wiped out when disease killed off the local sponge beds. And in 1932, much of the settlement of New Plymouth was destroyed by a category 5 hurricane.

Devastated and deep in poverty, the residents of Green Turtle Cay cobbled together livings as best they could. For my great-grandfather, Pa Herman, this meant fishing and small-scale farming. My great-grandmother, Ma May, sewed straw hats.

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A straw hat, similar to those sewn by Ma May, and a roll of plait on display at the Albert Lowe Museum, Green Turtle Cay, Abaco

Below, my grandmother describes how she harvested palm fronds and processed them to make plait – rolls of woven or braided straw from which hats and other handicrafts are created.

Mama would sew the straw hats, but I would make the plait. I used to go down to the Long Beach. There used to be coconut trees there. And there were plenty of thatch-top trees over at Black Sound.

Hats on Chair

Antique straw hats on display at the Wyannie Malone Museum, Hope Town, Abaco

We used to get the young palm tops – cut them out of the head of the tree. We would cut those tops open and put them in the rock oven, let them get kind of crisp. If we didn’t have rain, we’d put them in the sea to bleach. Then, we would strip the palm tops with a needle or pin to make the strands to plait.

Sometimes I’d mix white-top palm and coconut leaves together. Other times, I’d plait all coconut leaves, or make lace plait. Uncle Ludd would take the plait that I made and sell it up around the islands. He would bring me the money. 

We used to send bundles of palm tops to a lady on Guana Cay, and she would send some to another lady on Man-O-War. They would make plait, keep a little for themselves and send the rest back to us.

Miss Leela, a Man-O-War woman, had a store down on Market Street in Nassau, where she sold dress material and different things. She used to sell the hats Mama made, but she didn’t send the money. She would send us material and other things we needed from the shop. 

When the mailboat would come, people were always sending plait to Mama, asking, ‘Miss May, can you sew this hat for me?’

I remember when Sister Hughes and her husband came to Green Turtle Cay. Mama sewed Mrs. Hughes a hat. The plait was open and lacy, and I made roses out of crepe paper and put around the edge. Sister Hughes used to go to go to church in it.

I had one, too. I made the edging plait out of navy blue crepe paper and Mama sewed the hat. I made white paper roses, and put them right around the front. Mama put wire under the brim. You wouldn’t know that hat wasn’t bought in a shop!

For many visitors to the Bahamas, straw bags and hats are little more than cheerful souvenirs. But for Rose, my grandmother and other Bahamians, this traditional handicraft generated much-needed income for their households during times of desperation and want.

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Rolls of plait for sewing hats and bags

 

Island Roots Heritage Festival 2014

How things change when you go from being a tourist to being a homeowner! Though Tom and I are excited about everything that’s been accomplished at Fish Hooks over the past three weeks (there’ll be a post on that soon, I promise), we haven’t had much playtime.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that we didn’t get to spend nearly as much time as we wanted at last weekend’s Island Roots Heritage Festival. I missed all the lectures I wanted to attend as well as most of the Royal Bahamas Police Band performance.

Fortunately, we managed to catch two of my festival favourites – the plaiting of the Maypole and the Junkanoo rush.

Thanks to Tom for the video at the beginning of this post, showing the Green Turtle Slammers in action. There were fewer costumed Junkanoo performers than in previous years. The upside, though, is that it really allowed the Junkanoo musicians to shine. From the brass instruments to the drums, to the cowbells and whistles – it was a terrific and engaging performance. And the little musicians-in-the-making were adorable!

After admiring his work at several previous festivals, I finally had the chance to meet artist, Anthony (“Big Mo”) Morley as well as his colleague, Katerina Kovatcheva. (Their work can be found at Iggy Biggy in Marsh Harbour.)

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Anthony “Big Mo” Morley, his wife, Ann, Katerina Kovatcheva and her husband, George

I also enjoyed chatting with straw worker, Rose McKenzie. Like my grandmother, Rose and her sister, Neuiza Rolle, learned to prepare and plait straw from their mother when they were young girls in Exuma.  These days, the sisters live in Nassau, where they can be found selling their creations on Bay Street, near the Scotia Bank.

Rose McKenzie and her sister, Neuiza Rolle

I have to say, the quality of all the Bahamian crafts and artwork on display was excellent. Only wish I’d had more time to browse…

Though I didn’t get a chance to visit the Family Tree Research Center, I did learn a little more about my own island roots, as I got to know relatives I hadn’t met before from the Curry and Gates branches of my family tree.

Irene Gates (daughter of Ma May’s brother, Charlie) and me

Congratulations to the Island Roots committee and a big thank you for all their hard work in putting this event together. I was so sorry not to be able to participate in more festival events. Next year, for sure!

Island Roots 2014 – Event Schedule

IRHF SignIt’s here! The 2014 Island Roots Heritage Festival starts tomorrow in Green Turtle Cay and runs throughout the weekend. Here’s the event schedule:

FRIDAY, MAY 2
Festival grounds open 11:00 am to 11:30 pm

12:00 Opening Prayer and National Anthems – stage

12:30 Every Child Counts performance – stage

1:00 Royal Bahamas Defense Force Marching Band and Beat Retreat

2:00 Amy Roberts Primary School performance – stage

2:30 Tug of War competition between the schools

3:30 Maypole Plaiting

4:30 Conch Cracking Contest

5:30 Royal Bahamas Defense Force Band march onto site and prelude

6:00 Opening Program

8:00 Teatime Rake and Scrape Band

9:30 Royal Bahamas Defense Force Dance Band

Kids’ Activities

12:00 to 1:00 Kids’ Games – sack races, lime and spoon, etc.

2:30 Tug of War Championship (in front of stage)

3:00 to 4:30 More Kids’ Games

Other Friday Activities Around New Plymouth

11:00 to 6:00 Albert Lowe Museum

12:00 to closing: The Family Tree Research Center in the Gospel Chapel Education Building will be open for everyone to inquire about their family roots. Peter Roberts, administrator of the Bahamas DNA Project and Philip Roberts will help research your family tree. Schedule appointments to ensure time with a researcher to discover your family history.

12:00 to 5:00 – Festival site information tent will be open

Bahamas National Trust Information table and display: Meet with Executive Director Eric Carey, Deputy Executive Director Lynn Gape and Abaco’s Chief Park Warden David Knowles

Informational display boards will feature tributes to the settlements, towns and cays of Abaco, Abaco Parrots, caves and caverns, lighthouses, boat building, Blue Holes and much more.

Friday’s Informative Talks at the Anglican Church Hall
(Located next to St. Peter’s Anglican Church, close to the festival site. Comfortable, air-conditioned seating for 70+ people.)

12:30 Timothy Roberts: Boat Building

2:00 Bahamas National Trust: Conservation in the Bahamas

3:00 Linda Emerson & Todd Pover: One Ocean: Plovers, Plastics & People

4:00 Peter Roberts: The Bahamian DNA Project Maypole - BLOGSATURDAY, MAY 3

12:00 Welcome, Opening Prayer and National Anthem

12:30 Tiny Turtles presentation

1:00 Royal Bahamas Defense Force Marching Band and Beat Retreat

3:00 Tanisha Charlton: Talk on culture and tourism

3:30 Conch Cracking contest

4:00 Maypole demonstration and Ring Play with audience participation

4:30 Raft Race – starts at dinghy dock: groups and families are encouraged to build a raft to compete

5:30 New Directions Gospel Music

6:30 Junkanoo Rush with Green Turtle Slammers

7:30 ELECTION 2012: What Just Happened? – A Bahamian Comedy featuring Michael Pintard, David Wallace, Patrice Johnson, Tamika Forbes, Will Stubbs, and Tawari Rogers

10:00 to closing: Gully Roosters band

Saturday Kid’s Activities

12:00 and throughout the day –  Tug of War, Scavenger Hunt, Sack Races, Lime and Spoon and Conch Horn Blowing

2:00 Uncle Leon’s “Scramble” for kids age 6 and under

Other Saturday Activities on New Plymouth 

9:00 a.m. to closing: The Family Tree Research Center in the Gospel Chapel Education Building will be open for everyone to inquire about their family roots. Peter Roberts, administrator of the Bahamas DNA Project and Philip Roberts will help research your family tree. Schedule appointments to ensure time with a researcher to discover your family history.

11:00 to 6:00 Albert Lowe Museum

12:00 to 5:00 – Festival site information tent will be open

Bahamas National Trust Information table and display: Meet with Executive Director Eric Carey, Deputy Executive Director Lynn Gape and Abaco’s Chief Park Warden David Knowles

Informational display boards will feature tributes to the settlements, towns and cays of Abaco, Abaco Parrots, caves and caverns, lighthouses, boat building, Blue Holes and much more.

Saturday’s Informative Talks at the Anglican Church Hall
(Located next to St. Peter’s Anglican Church, close to the festival site. Comfortable, air-conditioned seating for 70+ people.)

12:30 Richard ‘O Blue’ Jones: Bush Medicine

2:00 Shane Cash: Bahamian Culture

3:00 Timothy Roberts: Boat Building

4:00 Bahamas National Trust: Conservation in the Bahamas

5:00 T.B.A.

6:00 Peter Roberts: Bahamas DNA Project Tug o War 2013 - blogSUNDAY, MAY 4

11:00 am – Sunday Service of Thanksgiving

Please join us at the festival site stage to give thanks for yet another joyous time together, celebrating family and friends and sharing our rich Bahamian heritage with the world.

For more information, drop by the on-site information tent, or visit http://www.islandrootsheritagefestival.com.

A Successful First Day at the Abaco Spay/Neuter Clinic

voluneersPerhaps I shouldn’t wonder, given the potcake’s gentle nature, but most of the two dozen or so dogs crated in the front yard of Marsh Harbour’s Island Veterinary Clinic seemed surprisingly calm. Many adult dogs watched the volunteers around them with apparent interest. Six recently rescued five-week old pups napped in tangled piles, limbs splayed. A seventh slept, curled up in an empty food bowl.

dogs 5Some of these dogs (and cats) had been brought by their owners to the free spay/neuter clinic. Volunteers had rounded up others from areas with large populations of strays.

For many animals, it was likely their first time being crated — possibly even their first time at a vet’s office. But, peacefully and patiently, they waited.

Inside the clinic, the mood was much more energetic. Twenty or so volunteers from a variety of rescue organizations including Royal Potcake Rescue USA, BAARK, the Abaco Shelter and the Hope Town Humane Society, and three veterinarians — Dr. Bailey from Marsh Harbour, Dr. Dorsett from Nassau and Dr. Wildgoose from Freeport — ran an impressive and efficient operation.

The dogs and cats on the front lawn were recent arrivals, each of whom had been assigned a number. Corresponding paperwork was completed and attached to each crate.

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While awaiting sedation, Brownie gets love from a young volunteer

One at a time, the animals were brought to a makeshift sedation area in the clinic’s front office. Once the anesthetic had taken effect, each was carried into one of three operating rooms.

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Dr. Bailey performs surgery as two volunteer assistants look on

Post-surgery, potcakes and potcats were brought to the recovery area, where each was assigned a volunteer. Volunteers stayed with the animals, gave them TLC and ensured there were no complications as the sedation wore off.

Volunteers tend to animals post-operation

Once awake, the still-groggy animals snoozed in crates until their owners picked them up, or until they could be released back into their neighbourhoods.dogs from sandy point

Homeless dogs – including that adorable litter of five-week-old pups — will be cared for until new homes can be found. If you’d like to adopt a potcake, contact Royal Potcake Rescue or Abaco Shelter.

Rescued by clinic volunteers, these puppies will be given medical attention and put up for adoption.

Eighty-two dogs and cats were spayed and neutered on Friday. At that rate, the clinic will likely exceed its goal of 200 animals treated over the three-day event. The clinic continues until mid-day on Sunday, April 27.

Honouring the Shared Loyalist Heritage of New Plymouth and Key West

As we count down the days to the upcoming Island Roots Heritage Festival, I thought I’d take a look back at the very first Island Roots events, held nearly 40 years ago.

Planning the First Island Roots Festivals -- James Mastin, Betty Bruce and Alton Lowe

Planning the first Island Roots events — sculptor, James Mastin, historian, Betty Bruce and artist, Alton Lowe

The original Island Roots concept was conceived shortly after Bahamian artist and Green Turtle Cay resident Alton Lowe opened the Albert Lowe Museum in 1976.

The morning after the museum’s opening ceremonies, Florida historian Betty Bruce (whose own ancestors came from Green Turtle Cay) asked Alton what he had planned as a follow-up. As their conversation evolved, so did the idea of a festival that would honour the common Loyalist roots of the residents of Green Turtle Cay and Key West, Florida.

Program Schedule copyIn the late 18th century, having suffered  persecution in the aftermath of the American Revolution, many British Loyalists fled to the Bahamas, hoping to establish plantations. Sadly, many of these settlers were unprepared for the hardships of 18th century island living. When it became clear that the local soil was in fact unsuitable for large-scale farming, many packed up their belongings, their families and in some cases, even their houses, and returned to the U.S., where they helped establish Key West.

In the months following Betty and Alton’s original conversation, their idea gained popularity and plans began to take shape, both in Key West and on Green Turtle Cay.

A year later, in November 1977, Island Roots festivals were held in both communities.

More than thirty thousand people attended the Key West event, where they enjoyed art exhibits, a fashion show, a musical performance by the Royal Bahamian Police Band, a Junkanoo parade — and a slice of the world’s largest key lime pie.

Alton Lowe and Michelle Roberts of Green Turtle Cay present Key West Mayor, Charles McCoy with the New Plymouth flag

At the Key West festival, Alton Lowe and Michelle Roberts of Green Turtle Cay present local mayor, Charles McCoy, with the New Plymouth flag

In commemoration of their common heritage, and with the support of both governments, New Plymouth and Key West proclaimed themselves sister cities.

Bahamian MP, George Smith, presenting the sister city proclamation to Key West Mayor, Charles McCoy.

Bahamian MP, George Smith, presenting the sister city proclamation to Key West Mayor, Charles McCoy.

The celebrations continued the following day, as hundreds of visitors descended upon the New Plymouth settlement. The two-day inaugural Green Turtle Cay Island Roots Festival featured Bahamian music, dance and dramatic performances, a traditional Maypole plaiting and, of course, a Junkanoo rush.

Subsequent Island Roots festivities have been staged over the years and more recently, the Island Roots Heritage Festival has become an annual Green Turtle Cay event, celebrating New Plymouth’s Loyalist heritage and relationship with Key West, and reuniting Abaconians with family members from the U.S., Canada and beyond.

To learn more about the inaugural Island Roots Heritage Festivals, check out the current exhibit in the Wrecker’s Gallery at the Albert Lowe Museum.

All photos courtesy of the Albert Lowe Museum.

Related: Island Roots: Celebrating All Things Abaco, Island Roots Festival: Bridging Past and Future, Celebrating Our Bahamian Culture: Island Roots Heritage Festival 2014

Healthy Bahamian Cooking Need Not Be An Oxymoron

One of my goals over the past few years has been learning to prepare more traditional Bahamian dishes. So I was excited to learn that my cousins, Marguerite Sawyer Mendelson, and her daughter, Marie Sawyer Ochs, were penning a new Bahamian cookbook.

Marguerite Sawyer Mendelson, Me, Marie Sawyer Ochs

Marguerite Sawyer Mendelson, Me, Marie Sawyer Ochs

Back in the 1970s, Marguerite and her friend, Marie Mendelson, wrote Gourmet Bahamian Cooking, which soon became – and has remained – the best-selling Bahamian cookbook to date.

Healthier Bahamian Cuisine - editedIn recent years, Marguerite and her daughter Marie have developed many new recipes and made over some Bahamian classics, utilizing healthier cooking methods and ingredients – baking instead of frying, choosing  brown rice and whole-wheat flour and pasta, and using low-fat and low-sodium ingredients that simply weren’t available to previous generations of Bahamian cooks. They’ve gathered their very favourite dishes in a new recipe book, entitled Healthier Bahamian Cuisine.

In addition to traditional island fare such as conch fritters, chicken souse, peas ‘n rice, baked macaroni and cheese, stewed conch and johnny cake, Healthier Bahamian Cuisine includes many new favourites, like conch tacos, Abaco jambalaya, spicy coconut chicken, pork chops with guava jam, brown rice salad and mandarin orange cake.

Though not all the recipes are low-cal, this book will definitely get you thinking about how many Bahamian dishes — which, let’s face it, aren’t exactly known for being waistline-friendly! — can be adapted to support a healthier lifestyle.

To order Healthier Bahamian Cuisine, email bahamiancuisine@att.net or visit Marguerite’s booth at the upcoming Island Roots Heritage Festival, May 2-4 in Green Turtle Cay. Book price is $21, plus postage, if applicable.

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