Sharing Abaco’s Culture was the theme of the Tenth Annual Island Roots Heritage Festival (IRHF) in Green Turtle Cay where locals and visitors alike were treated to a variety of native foods, music, drama, games and informative talks on May 2 through 4.
Opening mid-day Friday, May 2, visitors were treated to a number of informative talks throughout the day on Bahamian culture, by Shane Cash, Lighthouses, by Annie Potts, The Bahamas DNA project, by Peter Roberts and boat building, by Timothy Roberts.
At the Festival site visitors were presented with an assortment of Bahamian cuisine as large crowds gathered around food booths to get scorch or conch salad, conch fritters and more. There was also a large selection of ‘sweets’ with cakes, cookies and goodie bars; enough to satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth.
There were myriad activities throughout the weekend with something for everyone whether participating or just spectating. Young and old alike enjoyed several tug-of-war matches, egg and spoon races and sack races, all of which were coordinated by the lovely wenches, dressed in period costumes dating back to the late 1700’s.
Children from the settlement put on a fine display for the Plaiting of the May Pole, a centuries old British tradition, and then helped the audience to get in on the plaiting too.
There was also a variety of fun and cultural entertainment throughout the weekend with David Wallace’s group performing “Election 2012: What Just Happened” on Saturday evening. The ever popular Royal Bahamas Police Force Marching and Pop Band performed as usual, drawing a crowd to watch and sometimes even get involved. There were also delightful performances by Amy Roberts Primary School and the Tiny Turtles during the day.
At night guests were entertained by a variety of Bahamian musicians – including Tea Time Rake and Scrape, and the World famous Gully Roosters as well as being treated with the colorful and beautiful sights and sounds of Junkanoo by the hometown group the Green Turtle Cay little Island Slammers.
The weekend was concluded by an ecumenical service, which was expected to be held under the tent at Settlement Point, however some strong winds upset the tents and the location was moved to New Plymouth Gospel Chapel. There churches from Green Turtle Cay came together and gave thanks, singing and worship together and hearing from visiting preacher Cranston Knowles.
The Bahamas National Trust and the DNA Project and family tree research by Peter Roberts also had tables set up to give information and literature on their various research and education. The family tree research group lead by Peter Roberts set up in the Gospel Chapel Education Hall where they took saliva samples for DNA tests and assisted persons with their finding their ancestral roots.
North Abaco Minister of Parliament, Renardo Curry noted during the opening ceremony the historical roots of the festival and the bond connecting Key West – also known as the “Conch Republic” – to Green Turtle Cay. “This festival really works the spirit of unity and oneness” with Key West he said. “We are very proud of the committee for the job they have done and making this such a wonderful event.”
Harrison Thompson, Permanent Secretary at Ministry of Tourism, spoke on behalf of the Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe who sent his apologies. He said that the Minister and everyone at Tourism are extremely proud of this event.
“It brings together everything we imagine accomplishing in tourism. IRHF brings the community together in a special way. This gathering is a celebration of our traditions, practices and values that have bound us together as a people. More importantly we are handing those traditions and values on to our young people. In this way we never forget who we are so our way of life may never be lost.”
Annabelle Cross, head of IRHF Committee, thanked all who assisted in making the Island Roots Festival a success. She said that IRHF is a work in progress and each year they build on the experiences of past festivals. She thanked Karen McIntosh for the part she played in developing the festival over the last ten years.