Successful Island Roots Heritage Festival
Even rain couldn’t stop the show at the 13th annual Island Roots Heritage Festival (IRHF), as hundreds flocked to Green Turtle Cay to celebrate the shared Loyalist heritage between the residents of Key West, Florida, and New Plymouth, Green Turtle Cay, Abaco.
And they weren’t disappointed. They were treated to a full day of activities, including a speaker series on various topics, including the history of Green Turtle Cay, the impact of hurricanes on the Abacos and The Bahamas DNA Project, during the May 4-5 festival.
Other activities on the agenda included the plaiting of the maypole, conch cracking, conch horn contests and cultural shows. A mini concert, headlined by some of the country’s best music artists, including Bodine and the New Entry Band, closed out the night.
Paulette Mortimer, a Nassuvian and owner of Third Eye Artwork and Collectibles, said the IRHF allows her to showcase her artwork.
“It’s vacation and work. It helps me relax and unplug from the city life. It also gives me a way to be more creative. The profit I receive isn’t always monetary but it’s more mental and spiritual. I just come to show my work, just to keep doing it because this is my passion,” she said.
Gwendolyn Laing, owner of La Shays Boutique, located in Freeport, Port Lucaya, and a multiple festival vendor said the reaction to her products has always been good.
“We come from Freeport every year here, and it’s really nice. Not only to sell but to relax, just to get away from home, so we bring our craft to sell at the same time. The reaction has been pretty good. The locals and the tourists that attend like the stuff, and we’ve been having pretty good sales, so it’s pretty good,” she said.
First-time visitors Roxanne and Joseph Ravalli, from San Diego, California, said the IRHF was enjoyable.
“The IRHF was a blast. It was a lot of fun. I like the fact that everything that is on sale is handmade. They make it sell. I’ve purchased the hat that’s on my head and the bracelet that’s on my wrist, it’s great,” said Roxanne.
For Joseph, the food was his favorite thing.
“I’ve had about eight or 10 different things. I had grouper, conch salad, conch fritters; the potato salad is not like any other potato salad I’ve ever had. It’s really different and good. The coleslaw wasn’t like KFC coleslaw, it was even better to me,” he said.
Myra Ravalli, from Greenbrier, Arkansas, also a first-time visitor, said she enjoyed the IRHF because of the cultural aspect.
“I love the IRHF. Everyone has been just great. I listened to the ceremony earlier and learned quite a bit of stuff about the island and the sisterhood with the Florida Keys and everything was awesome. I’m sorry I missed out on the heritage demonstration, but I’m excited to hear about the hurricanes and how they impacted the islands. We booked this vacation, and I didn’t know about the heritage festival and then I learned about it after I had booked. I was happy because we prefer a more cultural experience than a touristy or commercialized experience, and that’s what attracted us to this island and that’s why we’re enjoying the festival,” she said.
Wynsome Ferguson, manager of the Abaco Tourist Office, said the festival has made a tremendous economic impact.
“IRHF is important to the community of GTC because of the huge economic impact the festival brings to hundreds of people on the island. Whether it’s the boaters or the hotels and rental homes, the island is totally booked. We have people who had to stay on the mainland of Treasure Cay and as far as Marsh Harbour,” she said.