Thousands headed to the village of Crooked Tree for the annual cashew festival. The two-day event over the weekend featured all things cashew-from wines to cakes to the sweet roasted nuts. Over the years, the festival has grown considerably becoming an important event in the promotion of local produce. The festival this year caught the attention of the well-known Planters brand, which is exploring the possibility of working with the local cashew producers. News Five's Duane Moody reports.

Duane Moody, Reporting

Hundreds of Belizeans and tourists converge on the village of Crooked Tree in the Belize District for an authentic experience. For two days, the annual Cashew Festival exposed visitors to village life. On display and to consume were various cashew products, made by the villagers, as well as foods unique to the area. It was a weekend packed with a number of activities for the entire family. In its thirty-fifth running, Organizer Dean Tillett says that it has grown tremendously.

Dean Tillett, Organizer, Cashew Festival

"This is Crooked Tree cash cow and since the Cashew Festival not only Crooked Tree, but all surrounding villages especially in the River Valley-Burrell Boom to be a little more specific. Cashew has captured the attention now; Belize cashew has captured the attention of the international market. I was just informed that even Planters made a visit and I think talked to one of our prominent supermarket owners here in Belize and they're in dialogue to see how they can get this cashew into their market, on their shelves. Duane the whole trick behind the taste of the Crooked Tree cashew or the Belize cashew is the traditional way that it is being processed over the years. We have not moved away from that and we want to maintain that over the years while we promote the cashew product and diversify all the different use we can gain from it. There will be so many activities going on both under the main pavilion and outside here in the show grounds. There will be a lot of demonstrations in terms of the cashew product. The mechanic rides are here, the food. I mean if you can look around, we can see the wide variety of cashew products that we are displaying this year; that are on sale."

�And indeed there was no shortage of cashew products on display and available for purchase. This year, the theme for the Cashew Festival is "Cashew a Golden Gift for Livelihood Given to Us by Our Ancestors." Over at Anna's Cashew Products booth, the nuts as well as cashew pastries were available.

Anna Gillett, Anna's Cashew Products

"We have cashew seed, cashew bun, cashew cake, cashew cracker, cashew toffee, and then we have the stew cashew; the berry wine, cashew wine and also the berry wine."

Duane Moody

"How long did it take you to prepare all of these things?"

Anna Gillett

"Over two weeks; two weeks preparing."

Cashew is a seasonal fruit and most Crooked Tree villagers as well as residents from neighboring communities harvest the fruit when they are ripe and perfect to create scrumptious desserts, jams and even liquors. Also fielding a booth this year is Anna Quiroz and her family from Burrell Boom. While she's a nurse by profession, Quiroz says her wines take months to prepare and was not limited to the cashew fruit.

Anna Quiroz, Anna's Wines

"I have all my local wines; it's from a variety of local fruits. We also have stew cashews, we have the cashew jam and we also have stew supa."

Duane Moody

"Focusing on the wines, talk to us more about that-the preparation and what have you."

Anna Quiroz

"Well it's a lot of work, especially the cashew because with the cashew you actually have to squeeze the fruit to get the juice. Like with the berries, you just leave that set and after couple weeks, you take off the fruit and you leave it to ferment. But with the cashew, you have to squeeze it and I don't have the squeezer, the masher, so I use by hand. So it is a lot of hard work, but it pays off."

The funds generated from the festival are used for projects within the community.

Dean Tillett

"For the first time we can see the development that we've put into the infrastructure. While nothing with the traditional way that we've been doing Cashew Festival over the thirty-five years with the thatch and the bush stick, but to show our patrons how much we appreciate them coming out. And you know the nature, we can never tell. So we are very conscious of that. And we have put in place some very nice facility; zinc and proper structures to protect from nature."

Duane Moody

"�showing them where the money generated from this event is going?"

Dean Tillett

"Exactly and I think they all can appreciate that."

It was a record-breaking year for the festival in terms of entertainment, family activities as well as Mother's Day treats. Duane Moody for News Five.

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