If visiting the Virgin Islands has been on your to-do list, this is definitely the year to do it. 2017 marks the one hundred year anniversary of the Virgin Islands transfer from Denmark to the United States.
There are dozens of fantastic events scheduled throughout 2017 to celebrate our rich yet complex cultural heritage – our arts, history, and naturally, our cuisine. These centennial celebrations will be held on all of three of the Islands, giving you an excuse to hop from St. Thomas to St. John to St. Croix and back again.
1) Tour Through History
History buffs will delight in the tours, exhibits, and symposiums taking place through the year. Columbus was the first European to discover the Virgin Islands, but it was the Danish who would lay claim to and colonize them. The Danes held the islands in their possession until 1917 when the US purchased the land for the sum of 25 million dollars, or nearly 545 million in today’s money!
In addition to the educational and interesting events that will be held throughout 2017, there are also many great museums to visit on the islands.
Naturally, since I’m a culinary tour guide, my favorite kind of history is the history of food. My own tour marries our past with food on a food tour that takes you through the very streets where so much of our history unfolded.
2) Discover the Art of the VI
Art lovers and artists alike should make it a point to explore the artistic heritage of our islands. Starting with the new year, a series of art exhibitions and arts and crafts fairs featuring works from several local artists will be held on each of the three islands.
Outside of our cuisine, these art fairs are a singular opportunity to understand how Virgin Islanders throughout history experienced their world and shaped our culture. These expositions pay homage to the melting pot of the islands and the influences brought over by African slaves and Dutch, Danish, French, and American settlers to create something truly special.
3) Indulge at Carnival
Also taking place is Carnival, (three in fact!) a month long festival celebrated from December to January on St. Croix; April to May on St. Thomas, the largest Carnival in the Caribbean; and June to July on St. John.
Carnival is a can’t miss opportunity for foodies looking to sample our local cuisine. Located in the heart of the Carnival Village (one on each island), the booths include delectables from neighboring islands like Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados. With so many options, you should definitely try a bit of everything.
Bonus – Carnival Village is open late, this is the perfect opportunity to grab some delicious eats if you get a craving for a midnight snack!
Vibrant Calypso shows and fabulous bands for the music aficionados are prominent, as well as parades, gorgeous costumes, dancing, fireworks, and of course, food! Lots of it!
A Virgin Islands Carnival is something everyone who loves good music, fun, and food must experience at some point in their lives. If anyone knows how to put on a one-of-a-kind Carnival party, it is Virgin Islanders. With three opportunities to attend, there’s no reason not to go.
4) Enjoy Our Folklore and Stories
If you have children with you, during the second half of the year, centennial storytelling and folklore events will be held on September 2nd on St. Thomas, October 7th on St. Croix, and November 4th on St. John. Storytelling is very much a part of our culture and is a well-loved art form that still thrives in the Virgin Islands today, with talented performers helping to keep the art as popular as ever. Children and adults alike will be enthralled as storytellers weave their traditional tales.
5) Celebrate Transfer Day
We celebrate Transfer Day on March 31st of every year, but this one promises to be extra special. Although events will be held throughout the year, Transfer Day will be one to remember. In addition to the fantastic centennial parade, a gala ball will be held on St. Thomas.
6) Taste the Flavors of the Islands
Rastafari Agricultural Fair – St. Thomas
January 14 – 15
Vegetarians should check out the Rasta Ag Fair, where you can pick up a wide variety of delicious meat-free fare that is suitable for both vegetarians and vegans. Enjoy a freshly made vegan stew or pate while listening to live reggae music and entertainment. There are also plenty of fantastic food trucks on the islands where you can find both local and international bites.
VI Agricultural Festival – St. Croix
February 13 – 15
St Croix comes alive with Agrifest – a Caribbean Country Fair celebrating the US Virgin Islands as well as many other Caribbean islands. Long known as the “Bread Basket of the Caribbean”, St Croix’s fertile lands are the perfect place to celebrate everything agricultural. You’ll find livestock demonstrations, a petting zoo, plenty of local food and drinks to fill your belly, fresh local produce, locally produced honey, jams and sauce and of course lots of entertainment and rides!
Of course, with all of these celebrations, there are plenty of chances to try our cuisine, an aspect of our culture and heritage that we’re extremely proud of.
One of the things that makes VI and Caribbean in general cuisine so unique is the blending of different influences from several countries. West African, European (especially Danish) and American cultures all contributed to the many tantalizing dishes one can now enjoy on a visit to the Virgin Islands.
Whether sampling food during the many Centennial celebrations, dining at our local restaurants, or getting a dose of history with some delicious bites on a food tour, we firmly believe that the best way to get to know the Virgin Islands and our people is through our unique, flavorful cuisine.
If you’re overwhelmed with choices, then why not try a bit of everything? Taking a food tour is the best way to see the sights and learn about Island history while being able to try some of the local’s favorite dishes at the best restaurants in town.
This year promises to be both an exciting and memorable one on the islands. Come visit and see for yourself. You may not want to leave!
Click here for a VI-Wide Centennial Schedule of Events
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On VI Insider Magazine
Aslin has lived or traveled all across North America but has somehow always come back to her roots. “I love to travel and I love different kinds of foods.” While stationed in Nebraska, she became a beer connoisseur and New Jersey introduced her to delicious Greek and Mediterranean foods. She fell in love with afternoon tea because of her yearly travels to British Colombia. The idea for a food tour on St. Thomas came from her experience on a food tour in Seattle.
St. Thomas is finally receiving recognition for its delicious and unique cuisine and Sauer’s goal is to highlight the island’s gastronomy. “The idea behind St. Thomas Food Tours came from my travels. I noticed other places offered food tours, and St. Thomas didn’t have one. I said why not? We have the history and we surely have the food. It’s the perfect recipe for a fantastic food tour.” St. Thomas Food ToursTags:Centennial