Attendees of the 13th Annual Island Roots Heritage Festival (IRHF) quickly learned that even the rain won’t stop the show in Green Turtle Cay. Hundreds of tourists and locals filled the settlement from May 4-5 to celebrate the shared Loyalist heritage between the residents of Key West, Florida and New Plymouth, Green Turtle Cay, Abaco.

Attendees were treated to a full day of activities including a vibrant speaker series on various topics including the history of Green Turtle Cay (GTC), the impact of hurricanes on the Abacos and The Bahamas DNA Project. 

During the speaker series, other lively activities took placelike the plaiting of the maypole, conch cracking, conch horn contests and various cultural shows. 

Every night closed with a mini concert headlined by some of The Bahamas’ hottest music artists including Bodine and the New Entry Band.

When festivalgoers weren’t immersing themselves in the vibrant GTC culture, they could be seen patronizing a variety of vendors at the IRHF.

Paulette Mortimer, a Nassauvian and owner of Third Eye Artwork and Collectables, said she enjoys coming to the IRHFto show off 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, said the reaction to her products has always been good.

“This is our fourth or fifth time at the IRHF. 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.

Visitors could be seen sampling all the delectable Bahamian food onsite, enjoying the cultural displays and when they got tired, even hanging out in golf carts. 

First-time visitors, Roxanne and Joseph Ravalli from San Diego, California, said the IRHFwas enjoyable.

“The IRHFwas 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,” Roxanne said.

Joseph said his favouritething was the food.

“I’ve had about eight or ten 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.

According to Roxanne, “This tastes like home to me.”

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 yesterday, 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. 

Manager of the Abaco Tourist Office, Wynsome Ferguson, said this year’s festival has made a tremendous economic impact.

“IRHFis 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 Cayand as far as Marsh Harbour,” she said.

MEDIA CONTACT: Dawn Demeritte | Senior Executive, Communications | Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation |

Writer Credit: Dawn Demeritte 

Photo Credit: Dawn Demeritte