July 15, 2005 "Bon Bastille" was the word Thursday night in the ballroom at Government House, which was filled to the brim with the French community as they celebrated the conclusion of French Heritage Week, everyone wishing one and all a "Joyueux 14 Juillet."
Hostesses adorned in red-and-white outfits circulated through the festive crowd distributing boutonnieres during the program, which singled out the Northside Sportfishing Club for this year's honors.
The club was formed very casually said the club's acting president, Stewart Loveland, while accepting the awards. He said, "Back in the '70s a bunch of us were attending a tournament on Anegada, and we thought, we can do better than this." And they have.
The group got together for its first official Bastille Day Kingfish Tournament back in 1987.
Senate President and traditional overseer of the week's activities, Lorraine Berry, said, "They never dreamed their idea of a tournament would one day evolve from a family-oriented affair to a full-blown event attracting hundreds of anglers from the Caribbean basin. This is the most outstanding tournament of them all, and it didn't happen overnight, but little by little, year after year."
Loveland said the club has raised $80,000 over the years, which it donates to local charities. Members Edwin Bryan, Albert Sibilly, David Berry, Denny Bryan and Gary Berne were also honored, along with the "two women behind the success," Mary Bryan and Monica Lester.
The event honored academia as well as the world of the sea. This year four students were selected for college scholarships as winners in an essay contest. The contest was open to any student of French descent with at least one French parent. High school students (grades nine through 12) and college students (freshmen through juniors) were encouraged to write an essay describing what their French heritage meant to them, or to describe the contributions and impact of the French people in the Viirgin Islands.
Kellie Greaux and Alain Brin of Sts. Peter and Paul were the high school winners, while Bryson Bryan of the University of the Virgin Islands and Jamie Steffens of Michigan State University wrote the top essays in the college division.
The essays from 14-year-old Alain Brin to 21-year-old Bryson Bryan are moving, well written and filled with pride in the students' French heritage. They all talk about their parents, grandparents, and beyond, going back to St. Barths where most of the ancestors of today's French community hail from.
Kellie Greaux, reflecting the feelings of all the students, wrote, "My heritage is like my conscience, reminding me of who I am, where I came from, and giving me great pride and encouragement in what I do."
The ceremony also honored Shelli Brin, a former Miss French Heritage. The "Parisien" fashion show she organized at the Frenchtown Community Center kicked off the week's activities and provided the scholarship funds.
The awards were interspersed by a bit of music and dancing. A "get-together" band entertained with a little quelbe music by Richard Berry, Percy Nurse, Ronnie Bryan and Ralph Quetel, while a diminutive Kaylee Da Costa did a very grown-up dance number, and Melisa Steffens and Eric La Place performed a graceful Latin dance.
Odile de Lyrot, the honorable French Consul for the Virgin Islands, announced the formation of Alliance 225, an association to help people learn the French language and study French culture.
De Lyrot said, "We will start small, even very small, and then grow. We will provide French DVDs, books, and events." She can be contacted by e-mail.
James O 'Bryan, speaking for Gov. Charles W. Turnbull who is off island at a conference, concluded the ceremony with a plea for peace and unity in the Virgin Islands and the world.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.