Crooked Tree is located just off the Phillip Goldson Highway at mile thirty-one. On Saturday and Sunday, the village was overflowing for the annual cashew festival. Cashew jams, jellies, wines and even desserts were on sale at the festival, all produced by residents in the village. News Five’s Duane Moody has a report.
Duane Moody, Reporting
Crooked Tree is normally busy with tourist wanting to experience the pristine wildlife that the sanctuary, which makes up the village, has to offer. But on Sunday, Belizeans from across the country and tourists flooded the village for the annual Cashew Festival, the sixteenth of its kind. The two-day captures the essence of village life while featuring local cuisine and exotic foods unique to the area. It’s a weekend for the entire family to have an authentic experience.
Dean Tillett, Organizer, Cashew Festival
“The festival started as far back as 1985. It started off as the District Agricultural Show and then in 2000, we moved to the Cashew Festival….so it’s sixteen years of Cashew Festival and thirty-one years of the agricultural show alongside the cashew festival. What a huge event it’s been. I think we said it right when we were at studios on Friday that this year’s cashew festival will be one to remember. I think we did all that we needed to do in terms of marketing and engaging stakeholders and finding people who are interested in sponsoring this event. It’s a huge impact; the festival this year. As we speak the Ugundani Dance Group is under the main tent entertaining and everybody is enjoying that. Yesterday we had the Yo Creek Cultural Group alongside the Pantempters Steel Band for the first time in Crooked Tree. Duane this thing is growing into an event that is capturing the attention. I’m sure by now you guys have tasted the many cuisine that it out there, everything local, everything done on fire hearth and I think this is one of the things that we are trying to key in on also…on how we prepare food. That we know how our Belizeans, especially people come especially on the Sunday for a dining experience.”
This juicy, but tart yellow or red fruit that hangs upside down on trees is what is sought by visitors to the festival. Stewed cashew, cashew jams, wines, cashew buns, fudge, ice cream and even cakes are all up for sale. But it was the nuts that were in high demand and all these tasty products and more were available from Bird’s Eye View Jams and Jellies.
Verna Samuels, Bird’s Eye View Jams and Jellies
“We have cashew cakes, black and white, cashew fudge, cashew syrup, cashew pies, dehydrated cashews, cashew juice, stewed cashews and cashew buns and breads. It even got a more hectic. People come expecting to see everything that they saw last year and more and so it is challenging, but it gives me a good feeling.”
“Now it is not only limited to cashew products. I see habanero pepper sauces and all of that here.”
“Yes, we had to add in a few more items especially things that are local to the area. So I added habanero pepper sauce—red, yellow, green. I also added stew papaya and syrup from papaya, pineapple, cashew and from all the other fruits that I deal with.”
“I was luckily to get the last batch of cashew nuts that you had available. What about the supply and the demand for this nut and the fact that there was limited amount.”
“Yes and there is a reason for that; the cashew crop is at least three weeks late and that really gave us a big challenge. I had to have some very special suppliers to supply me with cashew nut. And even though I thought I had bought enough, it was not enough; the demand is more than the supply this year.”
While the late crop season may have limited the supply of cashews to attendees, it wasn’t a factor for Charlie’s Wines.
Bernard Panton, Charlie’s Wines
“This year is just another year after over twenty years that Charlie has been coming to the Cashew Fest. He is well known as well as the wine and people come and taste the wine and they love the wine and they buy the wine. So we have been coming here for over twenty years.”
“Is it all about cashew this time around or you have other flavors?”
“It is a Cashew Fest and we do have cashew but it is not just all about cashew. But we start off with cashew. We have cashew, we have berry, we have tamarind, we have supa, we have poconobwai, we have cassava and we have mango and a good variety out here.”
The monies generated from the festival will be used to finance several community projects in Crooked Tree.
“We are looking at some projects. We are about to establish four bus sheds much needed especially for the school kids when they are getting up in the morning, traveling to school, when it is raining. We are looking at establishing two parks because we are yet to do that. There are quite a few projects and from time to time, we generate funds back into the school, into education. And there are so many other community projects that we are involved in. But Duane it cannot happen if we don’t get loyal people from year to year.”
The theme for this year’s festival is “Keeping Agriculture, Tourism and Culture Vibrant and Alive.” Duane Moody for News Five.