Official Publication of the St Lucia Hotel & Tourism Association

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 village.
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 revelry.
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.

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