Mango Melee marks its 23rd anniversary Sunday, July 7, at the St. George Village Botanical Gardens. Mango activities will abound throughout the garden with fun, excitement and education for all ages.
The gate is slated to open at noon with the traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring Junie Bomba blowing the conch shell and the We Deh Yah quadrille dancers twirling along Palm Drive – an invitation to the public as they emerge through the gates.
Entrance to the garden will be $10 for adults, free for children 12 years and younger. the event runs until 6 p.m., closing, as always, with the mango-eating contest.
“This is one of our biggest fundraisers,” said Amy Parker DeSorbo, director of administration and development. “It takes over $4,000 to meet expenses and pull off this event every year.”
Mango Melee was created in 1997 as a suggestion to bring local families to the garden and highlight and educational programs, Phyllis Charles said.
Charles was the executive director at that time; board members Margaret Hayes of Crucian Gardens and horticulturist Ken Jones joined her in the discussion of the project. The trio invited the Department of Agriculture and the University of the Virgin Islands to present educational programs. The idea was to give the community a fun event that would entertain and instruct.
Charles came up with the name, “Mango Melee,” with thoughts that it would incorporate their current ideas for the event and future considerations as the event developed over the years.
“We will continue the original goal of entertaining and educating the community,” DeSorbo said.
Gyasi Clarke, Kurt Schindler, Cruzano, Tippy and Ras Batch will perform, and the Guardians of Culture Moko Jumbies will dance.
The wedding garden stage and the great lawn will be venues for our performers who have donated their time and talent to this event.
“This is the first time ever we are receiving this generosity and we give thanks,” DeSorbo said.
Hundreds of local food and crafts vendors and farmers will line the walkways displaying their wares for purchase. Denise Scott-Pokorney remembers the rich entrepreneurial spirit of the St. Croix community when she worked at the garden. That spirit is vividly represented in the variety of vendors who participated.
“I managed the vendor sign up and set up for Mango Melee and was fortunate to work with farmers when I worked with the other vendors,” she said. “Perhaps what I consider my greatest contribution to Mango Melee was my idea to move the date of the event from the first week in July to the second. After a board discussion, it was approved in consideration of all the other events on island during the first days of July.”
Pokorney worked on setting up educational talks with a focus on ways local produce can easily be used by all of the community in their homes everyday.
All the traditional activities will take place this year, the organizers said, as well as some new events for children and adults:
– Michael Funk of Caribbean Oceanic Restoration and Education will educate on Lionfish at his “Eat ‘Em to Beat ‘Em” booth.
– The Animal Welfare Center will be available for dog and cat adoption at its site.
– Cupcake and Jelly Bean the Clown will paint faces.
– Educational Workshops will be housed at the Bodine Center.
– The Miss and Ms. Mature Mango Melee Contest will return.
– Mango Dis, Mango Dat cooking contest, with local chefs facing off in four categories, with all culinary creations featuring mangoes. Information and an entry form are available online at the garden’s website.
– Mango eating contests for children and adults.
– A scavenger hunt for children and adults.
The U.S. Virgin Islands Fire Service, Emergency Medical Technicians, and the USVI National Guard will educate the participants with “Know your Local Heroes.”
“Our mango display will be in full splendor with many varieties despite the ‘fallout’ from the hurricanes two years ago,” DeSorbo said.
Leatherback Brewery will serve handcrafted beer at two locations in the garden.
“Look for our new marketing signage, The Botanical Garden of the Virgin Islands,” DeSorbo said. “We are marketing T-shirts, baseball caps, and lanyards with our logo.”
“Mango Melee is one of my favorite island events,” DeSorbo said. “Everyone comes together as a community to enjoy each other.”
WSTX will stream a live broadcast during Mango Melee. The station created commercials advertising the event and donated all the airtime for them. JKC Communications donated airtime. V.I. Paving donated radio commercials. Plaza East and Seaside Deli donated mangoes for the mango-eating contest. The V.I. Department of tourism, Department of Public Works, Diageo, First Bank, Team Consultants, Ed and Stephanie Fletcher and many more donations have made this event possible. Southern Glazers Wine & Spirits has donated alcohol for the event.