APRIL 25-27, 2003


      Snake bitten by wintry weather in some past years, and worried about the long stretch of cold and ice, the 37th Annual Vermont Maple Festival will move all exhibits, shows, and entertainment to the Bahamas this year.
      "We were able to make an excellent arrangement with our sister city of St. Albans on the island of Rum Cay in the Bahamas," said St. Albans (Vermont) City Manager Brian Searles. "And there are several excursion flights and a cruise arranged to help Vermonters travel there."
      The changing weather pattern may relate directly to the Festival according to meteorologist Scott Willard of the Fairbanks Museum in St Johnsbury. "We've noticed that the final winter storm has crept later in the season each year to follow the Maple Festival," he said. The Vermont Maple Festival in 1966 was held in the snows of February; last year, the parade suffered a mixed rain and snow downpour.
      "In past years, the Maple Festival has had to spread out to most of the public buildings in St. Albans," Maple Festival chair Jim Cameron said. "We are very fortunate that our sister city in the Bahamas has a major convention center which can house all the indoor activities under one roof."
      The Vermont Maple Festival [April 25-27, 2003, in St. Albans, Rum Cay, Bahamas] is one of the major family events of the Spring. In addition to maple exhibits and demonstrations, the family entertainment includes sugarhouse tours, pony rides, a Civil War reenactment, dog agility demonstrations, face painting, continuous free shows at the Main Street stage, a full size carnival, and friendly competitions between Vermont and Bahamian sugarmakers.
      Family entertainment takes center stage. The Festival will have two outdoor music stages playing continuous music from the 10 a.m. opening bell until midnight each of the three days. Franklin County musicians will be joined by their Bahamian counterparts on the stages. The native rake n' scrape, soca and junkanoo sounds of Bahamian music leans heavily toward the Caribbean for calypso, steel pan, soca and carnival music. Smokey 007 and Blind Blake and Grammy winners the Baha Men will take the stage to perform medleys of Bahamian soca, junkanoo and old fashioned Vermont and French-Canadian fiddling with the Maple Festival Fiddlers. Other performers will include the BFA Chamber Singers and the BFA Players, Borderline, The Croppies, Jim LaClair, the Joe Levesque Big Band, the Maple Festival Cabaret, Yankee Wild and many more.
      The AAC Art Exhibit in the Prince William Ballroom at the Royal Convention Center will feature Eric Bataille, Connie Clay-Bickel, Natalie LaRocque-Bouchard, Bob Brodeur, Alan DeMont, Josh Derner, April Henderson, David Juaire, Beth Maginn, Patrick Murphy, Kate Ritz, Meredith Roberts, Wayne Tarr, and yours truly, all Franklin County artists with exceptional oil and watercolor paintings, fine art photography, and sculpture, alongside 15 Bahamian artists such as Amos Ferguson, Maxwell Taylor, and Stan Burnside. Mr. Ferguson's work is on permanent display at the Pompey Museum in Nassau.
      The biggest event of the weekend will still be the 37th annual Maple Festival Parade. Starting at 1 p.m. on Sunday, the parade may stretch out over the entire length of Rum Cay with over 120 bands, unique floats, clowns, horses and tractors, and the ever-popular pooper scooper.
      The Commonwealth of the Bahamas begins 60 miles east of Florida and extends southeastward to within 50 miles of Cuba. There are about 700 islands and more than 2,000 cays, islets, and smaller rocks. Large Caribbean pine and maple forests thrive on several of the islands. Rum Cay is located about 180 miles southeast of Nassau.
      It is not particularly well known that the Bahamas are a competitor in maple syrup production. "With an average winter temperature of 21° C [70° F], we have had to create new techniques for sugaring," a spokesman for Agricultural Minister the Honourable Alfred Gray, MP, said. Bahamian maple producers crush succulent new green leaves in a modified apple press. It is reported that it takes over 100 bushels of leaves to make a single gallon of maple syrup. "We also have an excellent bobsled team," the spokesman added.
      Exhibitors have until Tuesday, April 1, to reserve space on the Celtic Warrior, a Bahamian registered coastal cargo ship that will onload all the floats, sound systems, food trailers, vendor exhibits, art exhibits, craft booths, and other cargo at the Port of Burlington (not at the St Albans Bay docks as announced earlier). The port change was made because St. Albans Bay is still ice bound. Transport is prepaid through a Travel and Tourism grant received by the Maple Festival.
      "We have reserved 68 containers to house all of the Maple exhibits, concession stands, fine art, crafts, antiques, and band equipment," Mr. Cameron said.
      There are still tickets available on the two excursion flights and the special Maple Festival cruise to the Bahamas. Call the Maple Festival office (802-524-5800) or click here for booking information.

Editor's notes:
(1) Check the date. Rest assured that it is (about) April 1, there is little or no chance that the 37th Vermont Maple Festival scheduled for April 25-27 in St. Albans, Vermont, will move to any other St. Albans, let alone an imaginary one in the Bahamas.
April Fool.

(2) Happy 25th Anniversary on Tuesday, Sweetie. No Foolin'.

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