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Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis (pink shirt, left) and North Abaco MP Darren Henfield (peach trousers, foreground) join others in the tradition of Plaiting the Maypole in Green Turtle Cay for the Heritage Festival. Photo by Mandy Bennet Roberts.

Island Roots Heritage Festival Highlights a “Fine Tapestry” of People, Culture and History

Under the theme “Beautiful, Bountiful and Blessed” the thirteenth Annual Island Roots Heritage Festival (IRHF) in Green Turtle Cay delivered a variety of native foods, music, arts and crafts, games and informative talks, overcoming the weather on May 4 through 6.

At the Festival site visitors, both local and from other countries (including sister city Key West), were treated to an assortment of arts and crafts from paintings and wood-work, to straw-work and quilt work, jewelry and more as local artists displayed their talents, and Abaco Neem also brought products from their locally grown organic farm.

Enjoying the Island Roots Festival, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis (center) pauses for a photo with historical reenactors along with his wife, Patricia Minnis (on the left) and Minister of Foreign Affairs and North Abaco MP, Darren Henfield (far right).

A variety of Bahamian dishes and treats were enjoyed by the large crowds who 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 Wayne Neely – who presented on significant hurricanes of our past, the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) – who spoke on Turtle Conservation efforts, the Bahamas DNA Project’s Peter Roberts, as well as Timothy Roberts – Speaking on Lucayan Tainos, and Amanda Diedrick (represented by her husband Tom Walters) – speaking on the past of the settlement of New Plymouth.

Everyone enjoyed participating in, or simply watching those who did, the various activities throughout the weekend. Young and old alike took part in scavenger hunts, and musical chairs and other activities, all of which were coordinated by the Grace, Dutch, Sarah 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, including the Prime Minister, Dr. Hubert Minnis (a surprise visitor) and North Abaco MP, Darren Henfield.

The ever-popular Royal Bahamas Police Force Marching and Pop Band performed as usual, drawing a excited crowd to watch.

At night guests were entertained by a variety of Bahamian musicians – including New Entry Band, saxophone music by the Sax Man, Rashad Reckley, Island Boys and Bodine.

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.

Therese Bootle, North Abaco Administrator commended the organizers, sponsors and the community of Green Turtle Cay for hosting yet another successful festival, and congratulated them on bringing their various backgrounds together “to create a unique Bahamian experience.”

Key West’s Goodwill Ambassador to the Bahamas, Neil Mellies presented Prime Minister Dr. Minnis and Mr. Henfield and other dignitaries with a coin with the crest of Key West on it as a token of appreciation. His wife, Coleen Mellies, representing the Key West Heritage Festival Committee, presented a check of $3000 to the IRHF Committee.

RBDF Marching Band member leads the parade.

Mr. Henfield said Green Turtle Cay’s people represent a “fine tapestry of who we are as Abaconians.”

He noted the historical connection of Green Turtle Cay with Key West and the current Festival adding that it is “a very important thread in the economy of this quaint island community which I am so proud to represent.”

He gave a special thanks to Annabelle Roberts and Coleen Mellies “for continuing this great work, and this very important aspect of our relationship, as we are very close with our neighbors to the north.” He then declared the festival officially open.

The Cheese Burger in Paradise committee made a presentation to the IRHF Committee of $5000, from funds which they had raised over the past year to benefit the community.

Annabelle closed with thanks for the many people who helped bring the Festival together. She said that the Festival “Is a major undertaking which is not without many challenges,” adding that it would not happen without a great leap of faith.

She thanked the committee for helping to show that “our country is so much more than sun, sand, sea and rum drinks.”

“The committee sincerely appreciates the support of our sponsors who help to make the event possible,” she said.

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