Feb. 20, 2006 – Visitors and residents alike raved about the food, the music, the displays and the arts and crafts at the 35th annual Agricultural and Food Fair. Hailed by many as the largest fair of its type in the Caribbean, the event drew thousands each day to participate in the fun.
Throughout the four days of the fair, visitors choose from a variety of activities, from listening to local bands to viewing Senopol cattle and fashion shows to watching dance troupes.
Kids enjoyed the Ag Olympics, the rodeo, 4-H demonstrations, donkey rides and kite-making demonstrations.
Some learned to make native dishes with a visit to the food demonstrations, where experts showed crowds how to make roast fish, gooseberry ice cream and hard candy.
All these activities and many more were found at the Agricultural Fairgrounds at Estate Lower Love on St. Croix over the Presidents Day weekend.
The fair opened Friday afternoon and closed Monday evening. Thousands were still touring the grounds up to the final hour, petting the animals and getting that last piece of Vienna cake to take home.
Divided into three main sections – livestock pavilion, food pavilion and farmers market -the grounds were strewn with arts and crafts vendors, booths dedicated to nonprofit and corporate organizations, and places where fairgoers could check their blood pressure or cholesterol levels.
On the east side, carnival rides spun, twirled and rocked laughing children.
A grove of mango trees provided shade for hundreds of weary fair fans who rested and dined at the yellow wooden picnic tables.
The fair offered a large variety of items for sale, including children's novelties, incense, homemade soaps and fragrances, clothing, jewelry, African fabrics, hot sauces and many other hard to find items.
Small business owners displayed their wares to the crowds, and many passed out their business cards.
Laverne Hodge went to St. Croix from St. Thomas to sell leather shoes, and her booth was strategically placed on vendor's row, just inside the fair gates along with more than 40 others.
Fair officials said this year's AgFair had more than 70 vendor booths.
"It's good exposure," Hodge said Saturday. "We want to let the Crucians know where we are when they come to St. Thomas."
Hodge had positive reviews about the fair and especially the food. "Oh gosh, it's great," she said, "and the food, oh the food!" Hodge said the tarts were her favorite. "I had a hard time deciding what to buy."
At Joffery George's booth his artwork and music CDs were big sellers. "Business was good," George said smiling. George was chosen to create the poster for this year's AgFair.
He said his vision for the piece was to create a visual impression that conveyed the theme, "Agriculture and Tourism: A Perfect Mix for 2006."
George combined a beach scene with a man in a tropical shirt and straw hat drinking from a coconut. Also pictured were farm animals and a windmill on a hill framed by the setting sun. The posters were for sale at the fair.
Harrella Goodwin's booth sold leather bags, wallets, hats and evening purses. Goodwin said a lot of her sales were to off-island visitors. "I'm happy for the people from St. Thomas," Goodwin said. "They shop!"
"This is one of the best fairs," said Sylvia Brady, who did a brisk business selling handmade jewelry with her husband, Neal.
"People are coming and people are spending," she said.
Under the blazing sun, crowds of people traversed the walkways and bridges connecting different sections of the fair.
Fran and Jerry Tobin both said the fair was great. Jerry Tobin said the "non-stop" bands were the best part, and gestured to the east stage where a local band was performing.
"I came for my stew goat," Fran Tobin said. "I can't miss that."
Helen and Josephine de Bono were visiting from Montreal, Canada.
The de Bonos said they have been visiting St. Croix for 20 years. "You have a beautiful island; it's like heaven on earth," Helen de Bono said.
The pair was most enthusiastic about the food at the fair. "We had beef patties and Armstrong's homemade ice cream: mango and almond," Josephine de Bono said.
Even while vendors were packing up their items in cardboard boxes, eager customers continued to rummage for that special fair memorabilia to take home.
At the petting zoo, harried parents tried to coax their little ones from the rabbits and baby goats.
In the food pavilion, successful vendors perched signs on tables saying "Sold out. See you next year," while others sold that last slice of pineapple tart and chicken legs.
The 35th annual Agricultural and Food Fair came to a successful close Monday evening, leaving lasting memories along with anticipation of the 2007 event.
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