Che-Raina D. Warner |
Photo Credit: Che-Raina Warner
ST. CROIX – Before a tent-filled audience and surrounded by booths of vendors, St. Croix’s 45th annual Agrifest got off to a late but rousing start on Saturday, Feb. 13.
Among 100 platform guests and those making special remarks at the opening ceremony was President David Hall of the University of the Virgin Islands.
Agricultural development is fundamental to the Virgin Island’s future, the University President said.
“We realize that we need to do more in regards to agriculture development especially academic agricultural development,” he declared.
In noting the university’s efforts to advance and promote agriculture, he commented, “We are in the early stage of exploring how we can do more in regards to creating academic programs related to agriculture.”
Hall said he was delighted to know that the University continues to play a major role in Agrifest as a sponsor and participant, especially through its Cooperative Extension Services.
The ceremony, which was chaired by Willard John, director of Special Activities, and Cooperative Extension’s Clarice Clarke, included participation from the island’s youth. The honor guard was presented by the St. Croix Central High JRROTC, the national anthem was sung by Daniel Lago, a third-grade student of St. Patrick’s School, and Ahmali Benjamin of Claude O. Markoe Elementary School invoked God’s blessing on the proceedings.
Errol Chichester, Assistant Commissioner of the Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture, addressed the gathering, as did Beverly Nicholson-Doty, Commissioner of the Virgin Islands Department of Tourism, Stacey Plaskett, delegate to Congress, and Neville James, president of the Legislature.
Seated on the stage among the other dignitaries were Governor Kenneth Mapp, Lieutenant Governor Osbert E. Potter and Charles W. Turnbull, former Governor.
During the ceremony, families of over 13 deceased individuals accepted special awards on their behalf for contributions made to agricultural development in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The ceremony’s curtains were brought down with closing remarks by the Governor, followed by the benediction by Jeremiah Jenkins, State Treasurer of the Virgin Islands.
Agrifest’s theme was “Agriculture – From Brown to Green in 2016” and the busy event included food and animal contests, dozens of vendors, both local and from other islands, a petting zoo, along with displays of farm animals and fresh produce. While the fragrance of roast pork came out of the old brick oven, continuous music on three stages entertained the thousands of visitors with soca bands, steel-pan bands, quelbe dancers, mocko jumbies and fashion competitions.
The festival was a chance to learn about St. Croix’s food and culture, and to compete with the best local cooks and bakers. It is the largest agriculture festival in the region and draws farmers and vendors from neighboring Caribbean islands.