Saturday, April 6, 2013

3rd Annual Black Rock's Good Friday Kite Competition

Easter Weekend. What a great holiday and one of my all-time favorites!

Some of my favorite blog posts and writing topics so far have been writing about holiday traditions and the differences between how I've always celebrated them in and how Kittitians and Nevisians celebrate them.

As a young child my first fond memories of Easter took place at my grandfather's house in a small town nearby my parents. After waking up to either a full basket of chocolate or notes leading my brother and myself on a "treasure hunt" from rhyming clue to clue to find the baskets we'd dress up and drive to my grandfather's house.

We always had an Easter ham and my brother an myself would each bring our blow up Easter Bunnies along to dance and sing to my grandfather's guitar music. Sometimes the weather was warm by that point or sometimes it was still cold enough to have to wear long sleeved shirts and coats. I'll never forget those memories but now I'm in a completely different part of the world where I'll never wear anything but shorts regardless of when Easter falls on the calendar.

As I grew older I learned the true meaning behind Easter. So you're telling me Easter wasn't just about some cute bunnies that bring you chocolate?? Easter for Christians is a holiday celebrating our savior, his suffering for us, and his powerful awakening or resurrection. How many people do you know honestly who would publicly let themselves be humiliated, beaten for days, and then hung up on display for all to see? I can name three, anyways, don't forget what Easter is truly about.

Since St. Kitts is probably one of the most religiously diverse countries I've been to I thought it would be interesting to see how the people here celebrate this worldwide holiday.

Side Note: St. Kitt's largest religious denominations are Anglicans(36%), Methodists(32%), Moravian, Catholics(11%), Pentecostal(5%), Baptist(4%),Jehovah Witnesses, Jewish, Rastafarian(3%), Baha'i, and a few others all in this small island nation of only 104 square miles.

Initially I decided where to go on Good Friday through listening to the radio. (I think I said before that radio here is extremely important to the people.) I was listening to Winn 98.9 FM and they were talking about Easter traditions and how they celebrated in St. Kitts in the past. They also mentioned that Good Friday is the biggest kite flying day of the entire year here, and that there was a kite flying competition taking place at Black Rocks. (I wondered why in the past week I saw more vendors selling kites in town then any other time during the year.)

Black Rocks is a beautiful natural beach made of volcanic black rock on the northeastern side of the island and is now one of the biggest tourist attractions on that side of the island. Surrounding Black Rocks is the tiny village of Bell Vue and I decided that a kite competition would be the coolest place to be in St. Kitts on Good Friday. (I also wanted to try out my new Nikon camera.)

I scooted out there around 13 miles in a drizzling rain with my adrenaline pumping. (honestly who gets an adrenaline rush over a kite competition?) I arrived to find most of the people huddled under a makeshift patio porch and of course an awesome DJ with a fantastic sound system bumping some tunes. It wouldn't be a St. Kitts event without a DJ.

I thought I had missed the competition but the rain had delayed it so I was in luck. I nonchalantly stepped under the porch when I heard the DJ starting to tell people to display their prettiest kite. I slyly took some pictures and was surprised to be pushed to the front of the crowd so I could get pictures of the kites these guys had worked so hard on.

The DJ handed each entry the microphone and they were told to give a description of their kites. I didn't know it at the time but Kellian Hazel was the man to beat and I listened as he jubilantly described his tissue papered kite as if it were a work of art in one of the world's premier art galleries.

"My first kite here I call it star boy. I took my time and you see three different stars and if you watch it you see three different stars," Hazel said. "Creation — Art —Glamour."

Keliann Hazel shows off his kite "Star Boy" on the left as children look on.

Hazel was not a newcomer to the competition and entered at least four kites in various categories. In the Prettiest Kite Competition he  described his second kite which he said held a lot of meaning.

"You see identical, four St. Kitts flag, one is PAM, one is Labor, one is the party that just formed, and one is you, Timothy Party, and they all come together to form unity." He stated, while talking to event sponsor The Honorable Dr. Timothy Harris.

 One of Kelian's Kites "Unity"
He also built an enormous kite that was probably the size of a pickup truck bed and it flew too.

The most exciting part of the event was of course the actual flying of the kites. People came out in large numbers from young to old to fly and watch the kites as they flew in the windy coastal air.

You'd think that flying a kite would be a peaceful and rather benign event but not in St. Kitts. Competition is huge here and that competitiveness didn't stop even on Good Friday. A lot of banter and good-natured competitive talk flew back and forth between fliers.

The Honorable Dr. Timothy Harris poses with one of the largest kites during the competition
Kelian Hazel and his teammate accept the awards for their two kites.
Two awards were handed out to the two youngest kite fliers. One little boy who was too shy for the camera and one little girl. They both received I think some sort of ice cake?
Some local children get into the action too. Notice the houses in the background. This is Belle Vue.

After a few hours of competition the awards were handed out by Honorable Dr. Timothy Harris, whom I got to talk to briefly when he asked me if I'd send photos of the event to him. Harris has been one of the government ministers of St. Kitts since the mid 1990s and without involving myself in politics I'll just say it was an honor to have met such an important political figure at a local event.

Children play amongst the shack bars and souvenir stands at Black Rocks.
This is another aspect of St. Kitts I admire because even the politics are grass-roots and the politicians are accesible and in the community much more so than in the United States. So far I've met two ministers and I'm sure I'll meet more. You see democracy at work right in front of you and that's unusual for someone from Western Pennsylvania.

Harris handed out awards to the two youngest competitors, the oldest competitor (71 years old), and to the competitor with the highest kite flown, Nigel Brown.

Harris told the crowd, "We aim to rekindle the love of kite flying in the constituency and nationally and we want to thank all of those who came out and gave their full support."

On my ride back to Basseterre I spotted some other kite fliers in other villages and later at Timothy field near the Marriott Resort in Frigate Bay.

The day was a wonderful experience and I found it was great fun to hang out with the local residents. They included me right in with all the fun without hesitation and gave me a taste of Kittitian life on Good Friday, a special holiday every year in St. Kitts. Maybe next year I'll try my luck with my own kite.

I truly believe that if you want to truly know the country you have to learn to know the people wherever you go.

The Highest kite flier being awarded.

Norris Taylor,71, the oldest kite flier. He said he had been flying kites since he was a kid.