Though I was stuck back in Los Angeles caring for Wrigley, my Green Turtle Cay friends did not disappoint when it came to keeping me updated about goings-on at the 2018 Island Roots Heritage Festival, and of course, taking some terrific photographs.
Weatherwise, the festival got off to a rocky start, with heavy rains on Friday, May 4, which led to the postponement of a number of events, including the opening ceremony.
Green Turtle Cay’s own Ronel Escarment performed as part of the festival’s opening ceremonies. (Photo: Mandy Roberts.)
Well, another Island Roots Heritage Festival has come and gone — and I was heartbroken to miss it. But, I wanted to take a moment to congratulate the winners of the festival raffle and thank everyone who helped make the raffle successful.
While I’m back in L.A., nursing a recuperating Wrigley, my husband Tom is holding down the fort at Fish Hooks. Here’s a guest post from him, with a timely warning for mariners.
The phrase “red, right, returning” has long been as basic to mariners as the other “three Rs” are to school children. The reminder to keep the red navigational marker off the boat’s right side when ‘returning’ from open water is the rule of thumb that ensures safe passage to harbours around the world.
But, now, as boaters head to Green Turtle Cay for this weekend’s Island Roots Heritage Festival, one skipper’s misfortune can be a timely lesson to others.
You know that saying that life is what happens while you’re making other plans?
A week ago this afternoon, I took Wrigley out for a Frisbee date. As he sprinted across the grass, I heard a pained yelp. And though he continued after the Frisbee, he wouldn’t put his hind right foot down.
As some of you may know, the 2018 Island Roots Heritage Festival is coming up on Green Turtle Cay May 4-6. This year, to help the festival organizing committee with fundraising (did you know it costs close to $50,000 to stage this event?!), I’ve taken on organizing and running a raffle.
A group of Green Turtle lovers and second homeowners, including Tom and me, got together and contributed funds with which to purchase some awesome prizes to be raffled off in support of the festival. They include:
During the planning for the first Island Roots Festival, Key West historian Betty Bruce – whose ancestors were among those Abaco families who settled Key West – began gathering the names of other Floridians whose roots stretched across the Gulf Stream to the Bahama islands.
Within just a few months, she had gathered several hundred names on a scroll, which now resides in the archives of the Albert Lowe Museum.
Reading through the scroll, you recognize many common Bahamian surnames, such as Pinder, Knowles, Kemp, Symonette and Moss, from the various Bahamian islands including Eleuthera, Spanish Wells, Harbour Island, Long Island, Nassau and Grand Bahama.
Annabelle Roberts Cross (left) and Trina Cooper of the Island Roots Heritage Festival with their Cacique Award. (Photo: Ruth Saunders)
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.
If you’re on Green Turtle Cay this Saturday evening, March 8, don’t forget to stop by the basketball court and support the Island Roots Heritage Festival Committee. Here are more details about the event:
Food. Music. Religion. Art. Politics. And of course, Junkanoo. Though the world knows us for breathtaking beaches, spectacular boating and fishing and some of the best diving on the planet, these are the things about which Bahamians are most passionate, the things that shape our collective identity. And, under the theme, “Celebrating Our Culture,” they’ll be saluted at this year’s Island Roots Heritage Festival, being held May 2-4 in Green Turtle Cay.
Junkanoo Performer, IRHF 2011
Though the event program is still being finalized, the festival committee says this year’s Island Roots will feature a diverse selection of Bahamian musicians, artists, artisans and authors, popular local dishes and culinary delights, traditional island games, informative displays and presentations and a family tree research center.
A festival tradition — plaiting the Maypole — IRHF 2013
Island Roots allows visitors to experience authentic Bahamian culture and gives Bahamians the opportunity to learn about and celebrate their individual and collective histories.
The Royal Bahamas Police Force Band — IRHF 2011
Of course, staging this much-loved, three-day festival is not inexpensive. To help with the myriad of event costs (equipment rentals, printing, transportation and accommodation for dozens of presenters and performers, just for starters), the festival committee has planned a number of fundraising events. If you’d like to support the Island Roots Heritage Festival, here’s how:
Attend the Fundraising Grill Out on Saturday, March 8: A grill-out will be held this Saturday evening at the basketball court in the center of New Plymouth. If you’re on the cay, please drop by for dinner and dessert. Grilling begins at 5 pm.
Donate a Raffle Prize: The festival committee is seeking prize donations for their annual raffle. If you’re able to donate merchandise, gift certificates or services, they would much appreciate it. If you’d like to contribute a raffle prize, let me know, and I’ll forward contact information for the festival committee.
Donate Cash: To make a cash donation, large or small, drop me a note and I’ll put you in touch with the committee.
If you’re planning to attend this year’s Island Roots festival and haven’t yet reserved your flights, accommodations, golf cart or rental boat, better get on it. I hear they’re booking up fast. Hope to see you there!
Me, trying on Junkanoo costume
A festival tradition – the tug-of-war
Green Turtle Cay’s Tiny Turtles Perform at the Island Roots Heritage Festival
Turns out one of the most memorable performers at the 2013 Island Roots Heritage Festival wasn’t even in the program. On the first day of the festival, Mother Nature made several unannounced – and unwelcome – appearances.
As an opening act, she whipped up a thundering downpour, trapping people indoors and delaying the festival opening by an hour or more.
Then, apparently not satisfied with the havoc she’d wreaked earlier, she resurfaced around dinner time. The eastern sky grew dark and heavy, and the winds picked up. A waterspout began swirling off the east shore of the cay.
Photo by Timothy Roberts
Festival goers took cover in nearby buildings as the funnel barreled toward shore and made landfall as a tornado at the north end of Gillam Bay.
Video by Timothy Roberts
Residents along the bay scrambled for shelter under stairwells and in shower stalls as their homes were pummeled. Though several houses and at least one vehicle sustained serious damage, no major injuries were reported and fortunately, the tornado dissipated before it reached the settlement.
For me, the festival does more than remind me of my grandmother’s stories. It brings them to life.
One way Ma May earned money for the family was by making and selling straw hats. My grandmother and her sisters collected the palm tops, dried and prepared them, and braided the raw strands. Ma May then stitched that “plait” into hats.
Though I’m lucky to have one of the straw hats she made, I never got to see her make them, so I love watching the craftspeople at the festival.
And while it’s now an entertaining festival contest, conch-cleaning was a daily chore for my grandmother. Hard to believe these days, when conchs are so precious, but back in the 1920s, Pa Herman kept them to feed his hogs. Each morning, my grandmother and her sisters would have to break a dozen or more conchs before school.
For a few days each May, tranquil New Plymouth pulses with activity as the Island Roots Heritage Festival takes over the settlement. Originally created to encourage islanders to renew ties with kin in Key West and beyond, today’s festival offers an authentic and entertaining island experience for locals and tourists alike.
Royal Bahamian Defence Force Band Marches Through Town
For visitors, Island Roots is a crash course in local culture. Bahamian artisans display native wood carvings, straw and shell work, fine jewelry and vivid paintings of tropical scenes. Traditional lime-in-spoon races, scavenger hunts, Maypole plaiting, conch-cleaning and conch horn-blowing contests and tug-of-war competitions delight kids of all ages.