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Folklife Festival Helping to Keep V.I. Culture Alive

Feb. 27, 2007 — The old stone ruins at Annaberg Plantation rung with the sounds of children soaking up history and having a good time Tuesday as V.I. National Park kicked off its 16th annual Folklife Festival.
Schoolchildren outnumbered the adult residents and visitors at Tuesday's event by a wide margin, with students from across St. Thomas and St. John making the trip.
Several people said it was important that the children get the message about the island's history. "This is the root of our existence," park ranger and event organizer Denise Georges said.
Four Julius E. Sprauve School students gathered under a shady tree to talk about what they thought was important about the event. "The slaves were here. It's our history," Iesha Dawson, 12, said.
Her friend, Shavoni Chichester, 12, said that the land was what "our people fought for." Meanwhile, Alexa Richards, 11, and Lanae Charles, 12, both said they came to the event to learn more about their culture.
Sprauve School teacher Bill Johnson said it was important for the students to learn about the past. "There's always something for them to see and learn about," he said of the festival.
The event featured numerous St. Thomas and St. John craftspeople demonstrating and plying their wares.
St. John resident Ital Anthony was busy setting up a table filled with handcrafted bird feeders, maracas, boats and musical sticks. He said he's involved in crafts because he's trying to keep culture alive. "This is one way of doing it," he said.
Nearby, St. Thomas resident Alton Evans showed off jewelry and other items made from coconut shells, seeds and bones. He said children and others need to learn about things they don't see on a daily basis, such as crafts, to learn their importance.
St. John resident Yolanda Morton had dolls, batik scarves, calabash bags and jewelry for sale. She said that people learned these crafts in earlier times because they didn't get help from the government to survive.
St. John resident Esther Frett was on hand with baby clothing, handcrafted dolls, as well as other items. She said that each of her dolls is unique, with many dressed in fabric that comes from Africa. "I sewed my own dress, too," she said, showing off her red-and-gold outfit.
St. Thomas resident Elmira Farrell was on hand to demonstrate the medicinal uses of plants found in wild. "This papaya leaf is good for high blood pressure, and sage is good for your heart," she said.
The Folklife Festival continues from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday.
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