Now that LobsterFest 2014 is in the books, isn’t it time we start planning for a few new festivals?
I’m thinking ConchFest, RainFest, CrocFest and MosquitoFest would be good starts.
Truth be told, there is a second, overlapping festival already under way, Dia de San Pedro. It started Friday at San Pedro Roman Catholic Church and includes a number of cultural events including an art and photo exhibit at the House of Culture, a lecture on the Caste War (Wednesday), ethnic dances and history skits (Saturday), as well as a boat procession and fishing rodeo next Sunday.
And of course much music, dancing and fireworks at the town’s football field on Friday and Saturday. Every celebration is an opportunity to showcase our dancing and singing children, our musicians, our favorite DJ’s.
But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.
Bottom line is,we love to celebrate so many things here in San Pedro because, well, there is so much to celebrate.
If there is one characteristic I see among all islanders, locals and expats, it is this honest and simple gratitude. We are grateful for things like the start of lobster season because it is something we have been without for so long. We are grateful for the rain because it cleanses and cools, even if just for an hour. We are grateful for the brilliant sunshine and crystalline-clear sea because they– like bright jewels — never cease to dazzle us. We are grateful when the boats arrive with fresh papaya or limes or bananas because sometimes they are simply gone from produce shelves.
We are definitely grateful when there is good fresh fish available. And sad to see the conch season ending in another week or so.
We are grateful for the high season because this is when everyone is working and making a living from the influx of tourists. We are grateful for the low season because there are fewer tourists and some prices even drop.
We are grateful for the World Cup because it lends structure to our days for four weeks and gives us an opportunity to “represent” the many countries from which the population of Ambergris Caye is drawn.
We celebrate Mother’s Day and graduations and the start of school and birthdays and life’s many milestones with more feeling and intensity than I’ve recalled elsewhere. Does your local newspaper run full-page ads from your mayor congratulating all the kids who have graduated, from pre-school on up through junior college?
Early last night I was also extremely grateful for the woman who saw a $20 bill fall out of my pocket when I was reaching for my camera. She scooped it right up tapped me on the shoulder and said “You dropped this. It came out of your pocket.”
Shocked, I stammered a marble-filled mouthing of “Thank you very much!” and quickly returned all my loose bills and change to my wallet.
But on this night we were most grateful for the return of lobster season and the fabulous ways which our local chef’s have found to present the crustacean sensation for the new season. In a way, last night’s LobsterFest block party in Central Park was a cuisine fashion show.
The chefs from 15 of the island’s best known restaurants dressed up lobster in clever and delicious ways and merrily served their lobster in chimichangas, sliders, waffles, BBQ’d, exotic sauces, on a stick, deep fried, sanctified and — great googly lobsta! — we just couldn’t get to them all in one night.
Some people did. They are called “the judges” and apparently that is the most desired job on the island for the coming year, based on comments that I heard. Like, “Are you kidding me? They get to sample dishes from all 15 restaurants? How do I get that job next year?”
Think about it, people: How much lobster can one human being absorb in a single sitting? Celebrity judge Rebecca Coutant of San Pedro Scoop had a blissed-out look on her face when I encountered her hard at work.
“We just finished our third dish,” she said, “which is usually my limit. We’ve got 12 more to go!”
Like they say, “Somebody’s got to do it!”
Three dishes turned out to be our maximum for the night — lobster sliders from Casa Piccsso; lobster in a delicious mango sauce from Pirate’s Treasure; and a barbecued lobster tail from Caliente satisfied Rose and me to the max. That and some rum punches, white wine from the San Pedro AIDS Commission booth and a single draft of Belikin.
And we were ready to call it a night.
Didn’t even make it to the grand prize drawing and the announcement of the food winners. But I think we left pretty happy.
We ran into a lot of friends, ate great lobster and absorbed much celebratory energy (not a metaphor for booze).
So, yeah, we left early and more than “pretty happy.”
Make that grateful — for this island, these wonderful people and the ability to celebrate just about everything life sends your way.