April 27, 2005 – Ice cubes crackled as fruity tropical drinks were poured over them. Sticky mixes of passion fruit, sorrel, guava and mauvi quenched thirsts at the Cultural Fair, while oxtail, roti, kallaloo, flying fish and whelks filled bellies.
"Do you have any Vienna cake left?" came a hopeful question from someone hungry for the layered confection. The reply of "it's all gone" just sent the dessert seeker to find a tart or pound cake to fill the void.
The myriad of booths around Emancipation Garden filled with sights and sounds uniquely St. Thomian served as the backdrop for thousands of people to mingle, have lunch and see old friends. The Rising Stars Steel Pan Orchestra serenaded the crowd with rousing tunes.
"Being born and raised here, you see people you don't see all year round. They say, 'hey, are you still here?' Our circles just don't intersect," said one woman who wished to remain anonymous. "The weather has been good. It's not as bad as I thought it would be. Oh, and the youth! I love to see the youth playing steel pan. It does something to me."
Eighty-year-old Rose Francis was brought back to her childhood in Antigua as she watched cooks at the Gourmet of Perfection booth stir a big clay pot full of curry.
"Those were the pots and pans we cooked on when I was a child," she said. "My grandma used to fry in it, Johnny cake and so that food tasted so good."
Francis has lived on St. Thomas for 50 years, and always enjoys Carnival. "It's very nice. It's nice to see all the people enjoying themselves and dancing."
Errol "Lava" Stuart was working at one of the food stands. He was full of energy despite the long hours he spent preparing to feed the masses. "I've been setting up all morning–I didn't rest last night."
Lava was serving heaping piles of red curry tofu and mango BBQ chicken, "but the seafood kallaloo is going the fastest."
Even though most of his day was spent behind a serving table, Lava's eyes were wandering.
"I've been looking at all the food and I know just where I want to go," said Lava "I want to eat from N'Shomba."
The center of Emancipation Garden was filled with local arts and crafts. Elma Brathwaite from Island Girl Crafts was working with her sisters to sell handmade greeting cards, kissing balls, candles, and straw bags.
"For the past couple weeks I don't think I've gone to bed before 2 a.m. because I've been getting ready," she said.
Brathwaite's items are not yet available in stores, and this was her first time at Cultural Fair. She was thrilled with the response.
"People are saying 'this is so pretty.' They appreciate the hard work you put into things," said Brathwaite.
This year's Cultural Fair was also known as Jambi's Marketplace in honor of Lucien "Jambi" Samuel Jr.
The St. Thomas farmer developed the Green Thumb Sustainable Farm and is a member of We Grow Food Inc.
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