FRIDAY NIGHT FISH FRY
Sharon Williams visits St. Lucia’s growing number of weekend seafood fiestas.
It is another Friday in St. Lucia, the day when the weekend begins.
Since the crack of dawn in two communities on the island, things have
already started to heat up. In the town of Gros Islet in the north and
in the fishing village of Anse-la-Raye in the west, some residents are
preparing for their Friday night fish fiestas and open-air street
parties unsurpassed by any other weekly activity.
Some twenty years ago, Gros Islet village, not yet of ‘town’ status,
invited tourists from the neighbouring hotels to sample simple fish,
freshly caught by the community’s fishermen and prepared using local
culinary skills. This was washed down with rum and spirits and
accompanied by music.
Soon, enterprising villagers set up grills, barbequing chicken, fish
and local lambi (conch) kebabs. The music got louder, the fare got
bigger and the crowd grew larger, turning the once quiet affair into a
rip-roaring event that found its way into magazine columns and
television features worldwide. The Friday night street party became
one of St. Lucia’s major tourist attractions, carrying on into the wee
hours of Saturday morning.
More recently, the fishing village of Anse-la-Raye decided to put its
own show on the road. Tourism Consultant Keith Miller was sent in as
coordinator and to work with the Anse-la-Raye Vendors Association.
“Anse-la-Raye was organized as an alternative to Gros Islet,” he said.“We took a page out of their book but we wanted to do it differently.”
To ensure that the event would be as professional as possible, a
workshop on food-handling and preparation was held. It was conducted by
one of the island’s foremost chefs and attended by all the vendors.
When the villagers were ready, Anse-la-Raye’s “Fish Friday” was born.
It began earlier than Gros Islet, as an after-work lime. The major
fare hitting the grills was only fished out of the sea – lobster,
octopus, Dorado, shrimp, lambi, whelks and more.
“This concept has proven to be a major success,” said Miller, “There
are guided tours from the hotels in the north of the island to
Anse-la-Raye to sample the wonderful food.”
The success of the Fish Friday is also reflected in the number of
vendors who take part. In 1999, when the activity began, there were
approximately 14 vendors who sold craft in the village by day and
metamorphosed into grill chefs on Friday night. Today, this number has
grown and more than twenty seafood sellers dot the streets of the
The Anse-la-Raye Seafood Friday has succeeded beyond all expectations.
Plans are afoot to repair the village jetty and allow yachts from
Rodney Bay in the north to sail down to Anse-la-Raye to partake in the
The weekend activities in Gros Islet and Anse-la-Raye cater mainly to
visitors to the island. The traveler who is interested in more
indigenous entertainment with the ambience of a local hang-out should
visit the fishing village of Dennery on a Saturday night.
This event is a true reflection of island rural life. Tents sprawl out
on the Dennery beach where villagers and other locals come to enjoy
very affordable seafood.
Past president of the organization which plans the weekly event,
Shirley St. Clair Virgine, explains that this Fish Fiesta was intended
to fill the financial void caused by the shutdown of a clothing factory
four years ago.
“Many young women in the village were left unemployed and needed
something to do,” said Mrs. Virgine. “Dennery already hosts a
successful annual event called the Fish Festival so we decided to do a
smaller version of this every Saturday.”
The vendors who take part each week, pool their resources to pay for
the hi-fi music and other overhead expenses. They would like to acquire
a stage in order to provide live entertainment.
Mrs. Virgine is also one of the vendors. Every Saturday, her day
begins at 5:30 in the morning when she prepares her food; seasoning
fish, crayfish and whelks and mixing her accras (fish cakes) and bakes.
She hopes to see more visitors in Dennery.
If you enjoyed Friday night eating seafood in Gros Islet and
Anse-la-Raye, just keep the momentum going to Dennery on Saturday.
After all, doctors do say that fish is good for your health.