Under the theme “Our Heritage, Our Environment, Our Responsibility” the Eleventh Annual Island Roots Heritage Festival (IRHF) in Green Turtle Cay treated visitors to a bevy of native foods, music, arts and crafts, games and informative talks on May 1 through 3.
At the Festival site visitors, both local and from other countries, were treated to an assortment of arts and crafts from paintings and photographs, to straw-work and quilt work, jewelry and more as local artists displayed their talents. They also enjoyed a variety of Bahamian dishes and treats as large crowds gathered around food booths to get scorch or conch salad, cracked lobster and more. There was also a wide array of ‘sweets’ with cakes, cookies and fudge; enough to satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth.
Throughout the day visitors were able to sit and hear from a variety of speakers from Friends of the Environment, the Bahamas National Trust (BNT), the Bahamas DNA Project’s Peter Roberts, as well as Timothy Roberts and Shane Cash. Every Child Counts and Matt McCoy of Conch Salad TV both shared video presentations as well.
Everyone enjoyed participating in, or simply watching those who did, the various activities throughout the weekend. Young and old alike enjoyed several tug-of-war matches, scavenger hunts, sack races, and musical chairs, all of which were coordinated by the Sarah, Grace and Woodes Rogers, period characters dressed in costumes reflecting the style of the 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.
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 Every Child Counts, Amy Roberts Primary School and the Tiny Turtles during the day.
At night guests were entertained by a variety of Bahamian musicians – including New Entry Band, Impact Band, Geno D and the local Gully Roosters, but stealing the show for many this year was the impressive saxophone music by the Sax Man, Rashad Reckley.
On Saturday evening the Forest Heights Falcons, National Junior Junkanoo Champions, provided the Junkanoo parade with their colorful and beautiful costumes depicting the four seasons.
The weekend concluded with a church service held at Settlement Point where churches from Green Turtle Cay came together and gave thanks, singing and worship together.
Whelma Colebrook, North Abaco Island Administrator, officially opened the service noting that the Island Roots Heritage Festival “is a symbol of unity in our community.”
She said the festivity is well planned “bringing persons from many settlements and from foreign countries. These celebrations demonstrate that our culture and roots are grounded in unity and strong beginnings.”
“Throughout the years people have come to enjoy the paintings, art and crafts, beautifully designed jewelry, straw works and hand carved pieces crafted by our Bahamian artists,” she said.
She said that the festival helps to create “an appreciation of our heritage and culture… and demonstrates that Green Turtle Cay is an excellent place to live.”
Matthew Lowe, Green Turtle Cay District Council’s Chief Councillor said that the festival is “a really important economic boost to our island as it brings a lot of people here during what would normally be a slower time of the tourist travel.”
He said the festival is a great opportunity to see people they haven’t seen in a while and for some, to be able to “come back home again for a visit.”
Mr. Lowe said that “we as Bahamians tend to take [our environment] for granted. We must constantly remind ourselves that we have to work sometimes to help to keep and enjoy the environment we live in.”
He commended the festival committee again for all their hard work and added that “in order to keep this going, this community must come together to help out more and our own government has to be more serious about supporting these functions.”
Annabel Cross, head of the Festival Committee, said that “each year we plan the festival we are met with challenges, this year it was the wind.” She thanked those who helped secure the tents in the middle of the strong winds.
She went on to thank the Historical Society for their work in preparing the site, Local Government and the Ministry of Tourism for their support and the sound crew and entertainers for bringing the festival to life.
She added a special thanks to the vendors “who invest so much each year with no assurance; like our committee their plans are based on faith.”
She thanked the BNT and Friends of the Environment for partnering with the festival to encourage the preservation of our heritage and environment.