The Official Opening Ceremony for the 9th Annual Christmas Festival began on Dec.8 with the vocally talented Ashanti Duncanson, who sang the National Anthem before Wynsome Ferguson, manager of the Abaco Tourist Office, brought remarks.
Ferguson noted the festival’s theme of “Christmas in The Bahamas” as she reflected on how it began. In the aftermath of Hurricane Jean and Francis, she and Brenda Sawyer were approached by JoAnn Bradley to do something to lift the spirits of the people of Abaco.
“Out of this idea came the birth of the Abaco Christmas Festival,” Ferguson said. “The organizing committee co-chaired by Brenda Sawyer and JoAnn Bradley has accomplished much over the years creating the largest family-oriented event on the island of Abaco. In addition, some five years ago this event was introduced to the other islands of The Bahamas using our model.
“Next year we will celebrate our tenth year and we anticipate this being a special and grand event. We hope that you experience a true feeling of Christmas in The Bahamas.”
Shelly Austin, festival moderator, invited the Hon. Edison Key, MP for South Abaco, to the podium. Mr. Key called the event a much-anticipated one, and he commended the committee for their ongoing success with the festival.
Renardo Curry, MP for North Abaco, also commended the committee for their exceptional work. He admonished the audience to celebrate thanksgiving, love and joy beyond the Christmas season.
The students of Angels Academy sang a few selections before Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe delivered his speech.
“As we celebrate Christmas it is important to know that there are places in the world that can’t do what we are doing,” Wilchcombe expressed. “For all of us, we have to stop and appreciate all that we have in our country [and] all that we have worked so hard to achieve.”
Turning to Mr. Key, Wilchcombe announced that they would soon transform the site into a cultural center, that people could enjoy and where Bahamians can sell their wares and education can take place. As he closed, Min. Wilchcombe declared the Christmas Festival officially opened.
Meanwhile, Brenda Sawyer, committee co-chair, thanked everyone for their support particularly the sponsors of the event and those who had volunteered their time and resources.
Following the opening ceremony, Akeem Adderley of Abaco Central High School sang a selection. During the Kiddies Corner performance, children raced toward the stage when Dora the Explorer, Spiderman, SpongeBob and Elmo were spotted.
The legendary Estin “Music Man” Sawyer continued with his one-man band performance onstage. During the evening hours, children participated in a bell ringing and drumming competition where first, second and third place winners were announced.
This year, Senator Gary Sawyer was given the honour of participating in the Official Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony.