Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Island Roots Heritage Festival on Green Turtle Cay, Abacos

We’re at Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos, which is the northern Bahamas. Yesterday and today (April 30 and May 1) we attended the Island Roots Heritage Festival. What a great time! The genealogical heritage of this and many of the northern islands is interesting. These islands were colonized by both American loyalists (loyal to King George during the American revolutionary war) and their slaves, so they’re quite racially diverse compared with some of the other islands, and they trace their roots back to both Europe and Africa. The festival theme was pirates, appropriate because the Bahamian islands were quite a pirate haven back in the 1600s and 1700s. The festival was officially opened by the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, just sitting up on a little stage, no big bodyguards, no security. Rather refreshing. After the intro, primary school kids, wearing white shirts and colorful neckerchiefs, sang a couple of songs about Abaco, doing little hand movements to go with the lyrics about chopping cane, hammering nails, etc.—they were adorable. There was an array of food available. We got conch fritters, which were delicious and so fresh we had to wait for them to come out of the fryer. Even fresher was the conch salad. See the picture of the gentleman making the conch salad? Those conch in front of him are still alive. There was a conch-cracking contest (I’m sure the conch went into the fritters and salad); lots of pirate-related activities for the kids; displays on island genealogy and local pirate history; lectures on various subjects such as blue holes, a genealogical study of the Green Turtle Cay inhabitants using DNA, the pirates Anne Bonney and Mary Read, potcake dogs (a Bahamian breed), and more. In the evening, the Royal Bahamas Defense Force Marching Band performed. The band consisted of about 20 men and women dressed in incredibly crisp white uniforms. The drum major had this big smile on his face the whole time, despite it being really warm and sunny. The band marched in intricate patterns, then they’d stop and do some dance moves. One elderly gentleman did a little dance with the drum major. He was pretty limber for his age! We were glad we were able to attend the festival—it was great fun.

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