Feb. 26, 2004 – By 11 a.m., an hour after the official start time on Thursday, Annaberg Plantation was packed with school kids, chaperones and tourists, all bent on exploring the island's cultural past at the V.I. National Park's 13th annual Folklife Festival.
The three-day event runs through Saturday. Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday.
The event, expected to draw 1,600 school children on Thursday and Friday plus countless other visitors, this year celebrates masquerading. Hybrid Masqueraders from Montserrat and Masqueraders from St. Thomas will perform. And, University of the Virgin Islands professor Robert W. Nicholls, author of the book "Old-Time Masquerading in the U.S. Virgin Islands," will talk about masquerading's history in the Virgin Islands.
The Folklife Festival brings out numerous exhibitors who practicing old-time crafts like fishnet making and dollmaking, all skills honed during the island's subsistence years. This was a time from slavery's end in 1848 to the rise of tourism in the 1950s and 1960s when residents lived on what they could fish, farm and create from what was on hand.
"We celebrate how these individuals survived," park Superintendent Art Rrederick said in his welcoming remarks.
Some of the crafts were a bit more modern, like the wall hangings created by craftsman in Dominica and Grenada for sale by Kay Mackay. She said they were made of mahogany and roofing material, certainly a good use of materials at hand.
Gwendolyn Harley, who always exhibits her handcrafted dolls at the Folklife Festival, said she had some different ones this year to join her usual array of mango seed dolls, bamboula dolls and man-and-donkey dolls.
"This is a sweep-the-floor doll," she said, showing off a doll with a broom in her hand.
Visitors were delighted with what they saw.
"I like the local flavor," said Sue Funk, a visitor from Detroit, Mich. She's spending a couple of weeks at a vacation villa located just on the other side of Ajax Peak from Annaberg Plantation.
The students from various St. Thomas schools were taking it all in.
"I really like St. John, and I heard about Annaberg and always wanted to visit," said Kaleah Brewster, 13, an Addelita Cancryn Junior High School student.
Sibilly School students Shaquan Clarke, Jacdi Frett and Ashur Amaro, all 11, were strolling about Annaberg Plantation's old ruins.
"It's a field trip," Shaquan explained when asked what brought him out.
Former Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole was busy chaperoning his U.S. history and civics class at Addelita Cancryn.
"It's their first time to really see a sugar mill and they will be exposed to the whole sugar process," he said, noting that the class recently studied how sugar was made.
He also thought attending was a good way to celebrate Black History Month.
Publisher's note : Like the St. John Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.