St. Croix’s first Fall Heritage Festival, held Sunday at the St. George Village Botanical Garden, proved to be an exciting day filled with fun events and historical dramatizations.
Hundreds of children and adults spent the afternoon eating lunch provided by Good to Chew Catering, which brought a menu of local food, and delightful dessert items made fresh by LaVerne Bates.
The festival allowed people to learn about the property’s history and ranged from a blacksmith shop demonstration to a short play depicting the enslaved people who worked the grounds.
The festival has been added to the garden’s calendar during fall – the only season that hasn’t had a major event scheduled – as an important way to spread the rich and cultural history of the estate to the Crucian community. Organizers intend for it to become an annual event.
“It’s a way to further educate the local community about the garden,” said Holly Herold, executive administrator for the botanical garden.
Gary Bourdon who created the St. George Village Museum, discussed the site’s early history, which is shown throughout the museum.
“This is an important place, with real history,” he said of the museum.
Veronica Gordon, a seventh-generation bush doctor, led informative tours of the medicinal herb garden and demonstrated her passionate knowledge to several crowds throughout the day.
Children frolicked cheerfully as they participated in various activities – the Donkey cart rides, led by Stephen O’Dea and Eeyore seemed to be a favorite – as well as dancing to Bully and the Musical Kafooners, who played throughout the day in the Great Hall.
“It’s a great event,” Resident Jemma Williams said, “a good place to show non locals about the culture of the island.”
Linda Jordan, a history teacher and new resident to the island, added, “It’s very interesting, informative and colorful. I love hearing the stories.”
Michelle Moore read some tearful lines of her grandmother Frances Christensen’s memories of life on Estate St. George, while the crowd listened somberly. The most moving event of the day; however, was the mini-biography dramatizations of documented enslaved people, who lived at the site in the late 18th and 19th centuries. Historian George Tyson delivered a passionate opening statement about the research he compiled to depict the real life stories of some of the slave workers on the Estate – their short biographies were displayed along the wall of the Great Hall.
Per Ankh Dance Troupe, led by ChenziRa “Dr. Chen” Kahina, delivered the stories of seven slaves who lived on the property: Jupiter, Luca, Titus, Netta, Eve, Cornelius and Mina. The stories brought tears to several members of the audience, including St. Croix part-time resident Dee Forno, who was so moved, she said through tears “I can’t even talk about it, their stories are extremely moving – just to think that they were treated like nothing – they made you feel their pain.”
The festival closed with these powerful performances, which seemed to leave a lasting impression on everyone in attendance.