Yes, what people say about this event is true. It is hot, way hot (it is mainland Belize at the end of April for pete’s sake). Yes, it is crowded. (So many people tell me “I can’t go. I don’t like crowds”…ummm…really?…who does?) It is crowded with people of all ages having a good time. And yes, there is lots of walking. But EVERYTHING I saw made the trip 100% worth it. I travelled to Belmopan thinking that I had to attend this HUGE fair once. But I will be returning every year. Guaranteed. I had one of the most fun days I’ve ever had in Belize.
But, as usual, I get ahead of myself. Let’s go back to the very beginning. My friend and I were flying from San Pedro to Belize Municipal Airport. We left on Tropic Air. Here is a picture of the “terminal”.
At the very south end of Ambregris Caye, we flew over an area called Cayo Congrejo and the Siete Canales (or Seven Channels). Deeper water canals that cut through the little bits of land and mangroves, this area is supposed to be great for fishing. (Thanks to my new friend and seat mate Einer from Ramon’s Village for sharing this little tidbit with me.)
Since they were expecting 20-25 thousand people at the show over the weekend and only about 14,000 live in Belmopan, we knew that lots of people would be travelling. Especially from Belize’s biggest city, Belize City. Be prepared. There is no order when getting on the bus in Belize. No waiting on line. It is a total free for all. Even though we were supposed to wait at gate one, people rush from every gate. Usually this isn’t a problem…but when there is a crowd, sharpen your elbows.
If there are a few of you, send your most aggressive friend ahead. My friend Beth took the lead. I was too busy lollygagging. Chatting to some guy about his set of turtle drums that he was bringing to the fair. Beth found us a seat close to the front and we were off. You pay your fare on the bus…only $4bzd. And the trip takes about an hour and 15 minutes.
We had to pull over for a few minutes while a bike race was passing and causing a HUGE traffic jam in the other direction. Guys! It’s WAY too hot for such craziness.
In Belmopan, we were lucky enough to have a friend with a house in the San Martin area. All of the hotels and inns were booked weeks in advance.
No time to dally. To the fair! $5 entrance. Policemen with metal detecting wands (only applied to those deemed suspicious looking…I, thankfully, made the cut). And this map and schedule of events for the two days. INVALUABLE.
The show was originally started to compare, show, sell and exchange information on animals and crops. I’d guess about half of the fair remains devoted to those pursuits. We first went to examine the fruits and vegetables of Belize that were going to be judged to crown the biggest and best. Most I recognized…and some I didn’t. Like this one.
Bukut? We later found some wine made from this strange Bukut pod. In fact, we found “wine” made out of almost every plant in Belize. You could buy it by the plastic cup. I tried a sip of Noni, Bitters and Papaya. I think I’ll stick with beer. (Anyone know what “pucu nuBoy” is? Bonus points for that one.)
Some displays were a bit more elaborate but every fruit/vegetable/legume grown in Belize was represented.
The secretly beautiful Jack Fruit.
Off to the Belize Citrus Growers’ booth. Let’s learn about one of Belize’s biggest exports.
How to start your own rice paddy.
How to grow potatoes and other root vegetables.
How to start an urban garden.
Plants that grow well in small spaces, are useful and look pretty.
And then the fruit bearing trees…not for sale, just for exhibit. I didn’t see that many plants for sale at this event. Most were for eductional purposes. Ahhh my beloveds…mango and avocado.
I felt like I could be a farmer after this…
These nice ladies from the Women Groups of Northern Belize were selling Wow Soy Sauce which they make in Orange Walk. The sample tasted delicious. $2bzd and I had a bottle of my own. They told us to look for it in major stores in Belize City soon.
We headed over to see the cattle and horses that would be shown and judged.
This calf didn’t look that happy to see all of the people staring at him. I definitely left the fair wanting a pet cow. Wonder if my condo community, Royal Palms, would mind. It would help trim and fertilize the lawn…Think about it guys.
The Brahman bulls came in different sizes. From this small, sleepy guy at 1400lbs.
To this 9 year old at over 2100lbs.
Brahman cattle as distinctive because of the hump on the back and the flap of skin on their throats. The hump allows them to store fat and water in times of severe drought. They do much better than standard cattle in the tropics with their oily skin that repels flies and deflects the sun. Unlike Brahman cattle, standards breeds can’t sweat through their skin. Poor guys. You belong up north.
Lots of horses of all sizes.
People seemed to be lounging in tents and hammocks keeping an eye on their animals.
I haven’t even started on the flowers and decorative plants…let’s cruise through with one or two. The “Flower Palace” displayed all of the entrants and the winners.
The winner in the “Lovely To Look At” category. I was wondering what this pretty leafy plant was. The grower said he only knows the name in Chinese. Hmmmm…not helpful.
The cowboys lined up for the national anthem and a prayer.
There were quite a few contestant both in the adult categories and the youth. It was pretty exciting.
Unleash the calf! (Do calves wear leashes?) These babies really didn’t want to get lassoed, pulled to the ground and have their feet tied. Most of them were quick enough to get away. I hate to admit it (well, really I don’t)…but I was rooting for these little guys.
After this guy was untied, he threw himself on the ground and pouted for a while.
Next came the kids’ barrel races. A handful of boys and one girl.
Guess who won? Yes…the girl had the fastest time of 20.6 seconds. She was really good.
This little kid sitting behind me seemed to enjoy the whole thing.
Phew! And I’ve barely scratched the surface. There is so much more…music, food, beer, games of chance, the scary ferris wheel. Stayed tuned tomorrow for Part 2.
And I’ll leave you with the other San Pedro resident sightings…at one point, I forgot to take pictures.