Every November now for the past seven years the island of Providenciales has hosted a Conch Festival in the Blue Hills section of Providenciales. We just attended this year's version last Saturday. Of course we took a few photos to show to anyone interested in this kind of stuff.
But first, another one of La Gringa's late November sunrise photos:
We started going to the Conch Festival in 2006 and have only missed the November when we were on a boat in the Sea of Cortez in Baja. We have learned a few things over the years. One is that if we drive all the way around the Blue Hills site and park on the far side it saves us about a mile of walking each way. It also means we get to stroll along a very nice section of Blue Hills. A lot of the local Caicos Sloop crowd live in this area. Boat builders and sailors at every turn. We were really impressed with this sloop, hauled up above the high tide line:
That's a real sweet looking boat and built by hand by Turks and Caicos Islanders:
Cruising on down the road we walked into the Conch Festival site. We have learned that it's a good idea to get here close to noon if you want the best conch tasting experience. We were there at about 12:30 and the "crowds" had not yet inundated the place:
I was about to write up a description of the kind of things going on here. Then I realized that I still have a brochure from Saturday all folded up. So I just unfolded it and took some photos. This should tell you most of what the event organizers want to say about it all. Spread open, this is the back and front covers:
And the inside two pages basically describe the history, purpose, schedule, judges, and competitors...it's all right there!!
We were very interested to see the international flavor of the judges this year. A lot of travel writers represented here. Gosh, I just can't imagine why people from North America would want to be down here in late November...
I do have to admit that when we saw the Schedule of Events this year, we were a bit disappointed. In previous years there have been sloop races just off the beach, and this year there was absolutely nothing to do with the traditional boats. This essentially meant that a large number of sloop sailing and boating friends we were hoping to see did not bother to attend. The organizers wrote about the "history, culture and economy" of the conch fishing here. Well.... you really can't talk adequately about any of that and leave the boats out of it. Just my own opinion. The Conch Festival has basically become a showcase for the hotels and restaurants to sell their products. And there's nothing wrong with that. It's a great way to sample various conch dishes, but I don't see those conch dishes on the restaurant menus.. so I am not sure what the point of it really is, anymore. Compete for prize money, I guess.
It's still a good excuse for a lot of people to get together, get out of the resorts and spend the day at the beach. For the people who live here, without the boats it's not such a great deal. The local folks don't cook their conch like this and I have enough t-shirts.
The crowds were pretty light early in the afternoon while we were there:
And inside the tent there were samples from a lot of the local restaurants. Some of the presentations were pretty colorful and well thought out:
La Gringa braved the lines inside the tent to get these photos. I don't do well with crowds. She's the 'people person' on the team. I'm the boat guy. Lots of elbow room at sea.
We did manage to run into a few local friends, although not many. THIS guy is trouble, and that's all I am going to say about that.
Now that's a presentation, n'est-ce pas?
And back again this year, for a return engagement, bigger and better than ever.... I bring you..... Chef Goat!!:
We do remember him from last year, when he was also on the Simba stand.
Horse Eyed Jacks is a very local restaurant from right down the road next to Da Conch Shack. I guess they have added conch to their menu. It was never there when I was.
The number of different ways to prepare conch was amazing. It's really a very versatile seafood and probably one of the healthiest meats around. And it even goes very well with beer. I could show you some examples, I suppose.
Chef Franco Forbes is an old friend from his days cooking at the Meridian Club on Pine Cay. Franco is now at the Somerset. We had a lot to talk about when I found out he had spent time cooking in Texas and his assistant, Mark, at the time was from Guayana. I had spent several months working in Guyana, back in the 70's. Franco was probably a barefoot kid in short pants back then. (And now he's a chef, and I'm the barefoot kid in short pants. Ouch.)
The Point Grace presentation was among the best in a very competitive field:
Outside the main food tent and across the road on the beach the Bacardi bar tent was doing a pretty good business by early afternoon when we pulled ourselves away.
People were mixing up Mojito's by the dozens. Literally.
And this year there were a number of local souvenir merchants at the Festival, for the first time.
Even the trophies were colorful:
But those were not the only places where local flowers were on display:
And of course what would a tropical display be without coconuts? Those are certainly local produce. Maybe from across the street, even:
These guys were here last year, too.
Outside a 'rake and scrape' band was getting ready to take the stage. This was also where the Master of Ceremonies was organizing the conch blowing competition, just as we were getting ready to leave.
We found out the next day that a friend of Capt. Ray's (our previous post) had won the longest conch note blowing competition. Way to go! We missed that, but then we had not even met Ray at that point in the weekend so it wouldn't have meant much to us.
By mid afternoon we had enough and walked back to our truck. Here's another Caicos Sloop photo from along the road. I think this one might have reached it's expiration date:
The further we got from the noise and crowd, the better I liked it. Yeah yeah, I know. Sometimes I am a grumpy old........ uh..... puff of warm air. Well that's close enough to what La Gringa calls me, anyhow.
And there's a reason for it other than the crowd and noise. First the sailing events were dropped, and then I was disappointed when the DECR people did not show up. At least they hadn't as of 3:30. I had looked forward all week to talking about the Lionfish infestation problem with them. Oh well.
We like this part of Provo. It's a totally different scene than where we live or Leeward or Grace Bay. This is one of the oldest settlements on the island, and also the first road ever built here. We've seen photos of people sitting and breaking up conch shells to cover the path and prepare it for paving.
Here's a nice shady spot... a tree covered in vines overlooking the reef:
A word of caution, though. Not every tree here is safe to sit under. We have this tree here called "Poisonwood" that is supposed to be bad news. Strangely enough, it typically grows near its antidote, the Gumbo Limbo tree. Funny world.
I don't know why I was looking at trees on this day. But I also liked this one, that clearly shows you which way is North East.
In North America, I remember the Boy Scouts teaching me that I could find North by looking for which side of a tree the moss grew on. Now here I can see that the trees can tell you which way the trade winds normally blow. Makes me wonder why I spent all that money on a wristwatch with a compass built in.
So, this is our "second installment" of the trial plan to start writing shorter but more frequent posts. How's it working out so far? I've got some DIY stuff sitting here unused as yet. We still need to go take some underwater photos at Coral Gardens for the snorkelers amongst us. And we should have the new kayak to play with early in the week. That should be a hoot.
And this time I can finish with one of La Gringa's sunset photos. Any of these taken from here will be over a couple of the neighbors' roofs for the next few weeks. Unless we hop in the truck and drive somewhere else at sunset.
But this looks kinda' tropical' with the palms and colors, doesn't it?