By Melissa Zuniga
Edited by Naturalight Productions Ltd.
NB: Remember to click on the links in the article to see all the images.
Imagine the sensory onslaught from a weekend filled with…
- cattle, horses, pigs and dogs;
- overgrown local vegetables and fruits including watermelons, eggplant, celery, cashews, and pineapples,
- every variety of local music,
- colorful paintings, pictures, and crafts from Belizean artists,
- food from all ethnic groups in Belize
- thousands of people of all shapes, sizes, and colors from every corner of Belize.
Ooh… did I forget to mention temperatures of 100 plus degrees Fahrenheit in the shade?
This was the scene at this year’s annual National Agriculture and Trade Show, a 3-day event organized for farmers to come together with their produce and animals to educate the larger public about the importance of agriculture to our lives and the Belizean economy. As I heard one small farmer remark, “We feed the family, community and the nation.”
Each year towards the end of April or beginning of May, in the midst of Belize’s “dry season” the show is held on the outskirts of Belmopan at the intersection of the Hummingbird & Western Highways just across from The Guanacaste National Park. This location somewhere in the vicinity of the geographical center of the country of Belize, affords easy access from all corners of the country. By far, this is the most-attended, most popular annual event in Belize even with the record-breaking temperatures each year. This year I was as eager to see and be seen as I have been ever since I was a child.
The “show grounds” were a kaleidoscope of color with ethnic groups coming from all the villages, towns, and cities and even visitors from abroad were present. This year, over 50,000 people attended the show throughout the weekend which made it a great place to meet up with old friends.
The Agricultural Show entertains and educates both young and old in a variety of ways. Displays ranged from livestock, plants and processed meats to local artists displaying arts and crafts. Informative booths showed various processes and stages in food production and animal husbandry. Community organizations, craftsmen and service businesses take this opportunity to increase public awareness and make a few dollars when they can. Both small and large for-profit businesses provide ample opportunities to sample products, food and drinks, get special “agric show” discounts on purchases.
Over the years, different activities have been added to enhance the show’s appeal for all ages. These activities include a rodeo, canoe race, musical performances, mechanical rides and petting zoo for children. The show also highlights outstanding persons and talent through the selection of the Farmers of the Year, the Punta Dance Contest and the Miss Agriculture Pageant. It all adds up to whole lot of fun while lending support to local businesses and “keeping our dollar at home”.
As I walked down “the main”, different genres of music managed to permeate the hazy air and could be heard from everywhere on the grounds. In spite of the heat, the music still enlivened guests to dance and spontaneous dance floors often opened whenever a group encountered a song that they liked.
One of my favorite things about the weekend is the variety and availability of food - kind of like an endless food court at an outdoor mall. The choices included shrimp ceviche, pizza, panades, sausages, dried fruit, and the Belizeans favorite – rice and beans with chicken. With all the aromas wafting through the air and with BBQ grills laden with chicken, pork, beef, and other game meat at just about every other booth I finally decided on BBQ beef, salad and home-made tortillas. After a satisfying repast, I was ready to see what else the show had in store.
Although this has to have been at least my tenth Agric Show I hadn’t been to the rodeo area since I was a child and I headed off in that direction this warm Saturday afternoon. The seats were filled with spectators and curious onlookers to watch the four-wheeler competition. Trading horses for mechanical vehicles, the competitors left each other “in the dust” by speeding along to complete the course in the shortest time possible.
A little worn by the end of the day, I was just about to head home when a cousin encouraged me to take on the night life at the grounds, another new experience! To my surprise, there were as many people on the grounds at night as there were during in the day. The music was pumping and the grounds were transformed to a western setting with cowboys and horses passing by every few minutes. The cool of the night was further complimented by the twinkling of stars and lights on the mechanical rides and the glow from the remaining BBQ pits.
I awoke fresh and ready to go on Sunday when I decided to take in the popular and action-packed round-up and traditional rodeo in the arena. From the nearby cowboys, I gleaned that the rodeo and horse race was organized by Mr. Abe Reimer, from Spanish Lookout Mennonite community. Cowboys from all over the country compete on horseback, lasso in hand, to round up their calf in the least amount of time. It was exhilarating to watch (a career in another life perhaps?)
On the bus ride home friends exchanged animated stories about the new things we’d seen and experienced for the first time at this year’s show eliciting promises to meet again at
next year’s show. The diversity of people and activities, along with the ever present rhythmic punta, brokdong* and other cultural music are still my favorite things about coming to the show. See you next year….
*Creole for Breakdown – cultural Creole music you can dance to
Images Courtesy of:
Tony Rath Photography