Launching the 14th Annual Christmas Festival on Dec. 2 at BAIC Park, Pastor Silbert Mills gave the blessing over the event spurring a series of planned activities in motion.
The first activity of the day was Game Time with a Doughnut Eating contest. As moderator, Shelly Austin informed the participants that they were required to keep their hands behind their backs while they tried to eat a doughnut suspended from a string. The first person to finish their doughnut was declared the winner.
Another game required the participants to use a serving spoon to fill their cups with punch and a cherry. The children ran back and forth from the table where there cups were to the container of punch spilling a lot of punch on the ground, but thankfully able to fill their cups in the end. The winner was the first person to fill their cup with a cherry and punch up to the black line mark.
Next, students of Central Abaco Primary School (CAPS) performed a joyous selection of “The Little Drummer Boy” complete with a drummer girl and two drummer boys while the school choir sang.
This year Santa Claus came to town, but not by himself as he and Mrs. Claus sat side by side near the stage to distribute candy canes and hugs to children of all ages.
Baker’s Bay Golf and Ocean Club offered their annual Christmas Toy Giveaway to hundreds of eager children. The children were separated into three lines based on their age group, and they received wonderful gifts of toys, electronics and bath and body gift sets.
As always, the magnificent performance of the Royal Bahamas Police Force Marching Band drew the crowd toward Don Mackay Blvd. where the officers played a selection of music as they marched on the street while incorporating dance moves to the music they were playing.
After the lively performance, everyone made their way back to the inside of the BAIC Park for the Opening Ceremony where the National Anthem was sung.
Wynsome Ferguson, Manager of the Abaco Tourist Office, delivered the welcome. Ferguson expressed that she was exceptionally blessed and fortunate to share the day with all of those in attendance. Noting that the festival facilitates joy for all, she explained that the main goal of the Abaco Christmas Festival Committee is to “rekindle the flame of Christmas in the hearts of all who attend.”
Following Ferguson’s remarks, the students of Crossing Rocks Primary School heartily performed to “Jingle Bell Rock.”
In the lineup of speakers MP for South Abaco James Albury, who also serves as Parliamentary Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, first thanked the organizers of the festival who put in “countless hours and delicate thought” into making the event a success.
“Welcome – we have a beautiful day to be here together to celebrate the season,” Albury remarked. “If you’re anything like me Christmas is probably one of the best times of the year for you and your family. There’s a lot to celebrate: it’s a time to remember, it’s a time for family, friendship, fellowship and faith.
“But it’s more than that. It’s a time when we sit down together, and we express thanks for all of our many blessings and our fruitful endeavours over the course of the year. It’s a time to reflect on the future, and how we can move forward not only in our personal lives, but grow as communities and in our families, so that’s a very special time and a very special thing for all of us.”
Another selection came this time from Treasure Cay Primary School. The students added in a bit of Bahamian flair with “Mama, Bake Dat Johnny Cake, Christmas Coming.” Their medley continued with “Gee Whiz, It’s Christmas and “Feliz Navidad.”
The Hon. Darren Henfield, Minister of Foreign Affairs and MP for North Abaco, was the keynote speaker. He told the audience it was always a pleasure to speak to them particularly as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He added that the Christmas Festival gives us the opportunity to celebrate the virtues that were represented by Jesus Christ like forgiveness, love, thanksgiving and good cheer one to another.
However, as the Foreign Minister he said he is often faced with the issues that epitomize the very worst of humanity such as slavery, human trafficking, drug and weapon smuggling, international conflicts and violence, crimes against women and children, and the degradation of our environment that are all consequential to the outcome of our lives even on Abaco.
“But I am confident of the fact that as long as we have life, we have hope. The birth of Christ represented hope for salvation – salvation of the world and for humankind,” Minister Henfield expressed. “No matter how grim our circumstances whether they be personal or global, there’s always hope.”
Henfield also drew inspiration from Pope Francis’ Christmas Prayer in 2014 regarding children who suffer because of violence asking that the Holy Spirit would “enlighten” the hearts of all to recognize in the infant Jesus the salvation offered by God to each and every person.
Further quoting, Pope Francis, he shared: “‘May His redeeming strength transform arms into ploughshares, destruction into creativity, hatred into love and tenderness.’”
Likewise, Henfield echoed his sentiments.
“I am heartened to see so many of us from so many different walks of life, from so many parts of the world, and from all the four corners of this island as we come together to celebrate this joyous occasion, so I thank you for allowing me to share in this Christmas Festival with you,” he thankfully acknowledged. “I hope and wish you, all of your loved ones and family and friends, a happy, joyous Christmas, and it now gives me great pleasure to declare this 14th Christmas Festival officially opened.”
Meanwhile, Co-Chairman Joann Bradley invited Ettamae Jones and Carrie Lowe of The Butterfly Organization of The Abacos to make an announcement.
Jones shared the work of The Butterfly Organization before announcing the winner of a bicycle – Tia Knowles – who had made a donation of $100 plus to the organization. There are plans to erect billboards throughout the community, and activate a hotline for women who are suffering from abuse or a relationship where there is domestic violence so they can contact them. In the meantime, social workers at the Department of Social Services can be contacted at 1(242) 699-0150 if assistance is needed.
The Vote of Thanks was given by Brenda Sawyer, co-chairperson.
Additional performances were given by St. Francis de Sales Catholic School students with a recorder ensemble where students played “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “Oh, Come All Ye Faithful” followed by their Pop Band, which played “O, Come Let Us Adore Him,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” and “Go Tell It On The Mountain.”
Additionally, students of Patrick J Bethel High School led in a mesmerizing performance of “Oh, Holy Night, “Jingle bell Rock,” and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”
Surrounding the festival site were myriad booths displaying native foods, beverages, souvenirs, arts and crafts, toys and games imaginable. Bahamian dishes, appetizers and snacks were prepared by popular business names like Red’s Kitchen, Sister’s Takeaway, Bliss Coffee House, Grab & Go Convenience Store’s The Pizza Shack, A & P’s Classic Hot Dogs, Julia Henfield, Ingrid Farrington, Bernadette Davis, and the 12th grade students of Forest Heights Academy.
There were game booths set up inviting children to try their hand at Ring Toss, Football Throw, Basketball Shoot or Take A Chance as well as toy and souvenirs booths such as Flashers, R & D Toy Chest, Wilmore’s Souvenirs & Nic Nacs, Authentically Kathy and Lou’s Creations where customers could make purchases.
BTC and Aliv as major sponsors of the Christmas Festival were well represented with representatives on hand to assist in the sale of company products. Organizations like St. Francis de Sales’ Interact Club, Marsh Harbour Volunteer Fire Department and the Abaco Swim Club were also present.
Toward the front section of BAIC Park, Photographer Nixon Joseph of Nixon Joseph Crafts and Photography had a Christmas photo booth set up where photos and keepsakes could be printed right on the spot.
Familiar faces like those of Jigeria Dean and Jasmine Curry, both sisters, were there to sell products under their respective businesses: Sassy Chic Cosmetic Line and Scented Rumors/Pretty Thingz. Meanwhile, Pastor Edgburt Tinker had a huge selection of home and kitchen products and toys for sale.
Over at AIMEJ Creation, there was a beautiful selection of fashionable necklace sets, and next to their booth was Angels Academy’s student products of snowmen, candle holders, picture frames, candy jars, shakers, ornaments, table centerpieces along with the opportunity for children to have their faces painted. A bouncing castle was also available.