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St. Thomas-St. John Agriculture and Food Fair Features Bees, Contests and Goat Herding

Holiday gifts, native fruits and children's games top the list of attractions offered to the public as the 27th St. Thomas-St. John Agriculture and Food Fair celebrates the season on Dec. 5 and 6.

Promoters are also inviting the public to take a look inside the lives of bees at a special exhibit being set up on the fair grounds.

The fair takes place on the grounds of the Reichhold Center for the Arts, on the UVI St. Thomas campus each day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Opening ceremonies are scheduled to begin Saturday at 2 p.m., featuring the presentation of awards to this year's Crop Farmer of the Year and Livestock Farmer of the Year.

This year's event is jointly sponsored by the UVI Cooperative Extension Service, the Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture, Fintrac, and the St. Thomas-St. John Agriculture and Food Fair Committee.

The theme for the agriculture fair is "Fresh Start, Grow Smart." Dale Morton, public relations officer for the committee says the theme was chosen to reflect the need for farmers to organize and modernize in order to increase profitability. "In order to be a successful farmer, you need a plan," he says.

A poster depicting the theme was created by Randall Hartman. It features a farmer in overalls and a colorful hat beaming as he strikes a pose atop a pile of money bags.

Morton said it's hard to predict how many residents and visitors will make the upcoming ag fair part of their weekend plans. Because fair goers do not pass through a gate or pay admission, they're hard to count, he says. One good measure is the disappearance of potted plants, the most popular item sold each year.

"People start coming through from 7:30, 8 a.m., although it officially opens at 10 a.m., he says. "Some people who normally go to market on Saturdays come down to pick up plants." Other early-day fair goers appear in search of native fruits to take home or enjoy on the spot.

Nine arts and crafts vendors and 25 food vendors are expected to take part, although Morton says some vendors may display on either Saturday, Dec. 5 or Sunday, Dec. 6. Others are expected to greet the public throughout the two-day event.

Judges will have a chance to choose the best dishes in four separate contests. Cash prizes will be awarded for the best ital, the best sweet bread, the best maubi and the best dumb bread. Those who want to compete have until Thursday to sign up. Call Mary Bertie at the Department of Agriculture at 774-5182 for further information.

A number of demonstrations are also scheduled for Saturday. There will be juice making with Elridge Thomas, a grafting demonstration, and a cross sectional display of an active bee hive.

"You can actually see how the bees behave inside their hive," Morton says.
Around 3 p.m. on Saturday, livestock farmer Lionel Boschulte is scheduled to give a demonstration of goat and sheep herding.

Organizers are also planning to stage a series of traditional games for children, including sack races, musical chairs and a spoon and lime race. Adults will have a chance to join in on the fun.

There will also be educational displays put on by the Department of Agriculture, the Virgin Islands National Guard, the VI Energy Office, the Department of Health, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, the UVI Cooperative Extension Service and Kwanza 365, Inc.
An exhibit will also be presented by a new student group, the UVI Council for Exceptional Children, promoting the inclusion of children with special needs.

The entertainment line-up for Saturday and Sunday features the St. Thomas Heritage Dancers, the Addelita Cancryn Junior High School Quadrille Dancers and St. John's Ah We Band, jamming live music until the end of the day.

On Sunday, the Heritage dancers are expected to entertain the crowds. Fruit tree enthusiasts can still look in on the grafting demonstration. The bee hive display will remain open to the public and children can continue to have fun with traditional games.

For further information, contact Dale Morton at UVI's Cooperative Extension Service, 340) 693-1086 or e-mail dmorton@uvi.edu.