Bahamians Rock Lauderdale’s Jensen Beach Festival

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Jackie Gibson, manager of the Eleuthera Tourist Office, explains to a Jensen Beach Pineapple Festival patron what Eleuthera looks like. (Photo by Gladstone Thurston) 

By: Gladstone Thurston

FT. LAUDERDALE, Florida – Jensen Beach rocked to the rhythm of the Bahamian beat as Gregory Town, Eleuthera joined its sister city in celebrating the renowned Pineapple Festival.

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The Jensen Beach Pineapple Festival rocked to the rhythm of the Junkanoo beat last weekend.

The three-day event which ended Sunday also featured the Bahamian Marketplace that showcased a wide variety of products of The Bahamas.

And although icon performer Chubby Checker brought the house down, it was Larry Cleare and The Brilanders and the Eleuthera All-stars Junkanooers who won the hearts of patrons.

“We love Jensen Beach and they love us,” said Cleare. “Everybody is having a good time in an atmosphere of peace and love.”

Cleare released the Brilanders’ new album ‘Getting by on Sunshine’ which featured new material and their two hits ‘Party in the backyard’ and ‘Harbour Island’.

“It was quite a challenge after the storm, Noel, decided to intervene but we made it and it has been great,” said Glenda Johnson of the Ministry of Tourism office in Governor’s Harbour, Eleuthera.

“The reception was excellent. People kept coming in and purchasing the Bahamian products and asking us about the Bahamas. I feel certain next year it will be even better.”

Also representing the Ministry of Tourism were Eleuthera Tourist Office manager Jackie Gibson, Donnalee Miller, Norma Wilkinson and Cecile Torrence from the Plantation, Florida Tourist Office.

Jensen Beach has been the official ‘sister city’ of Gregory Town for twenty years. A contingent from Jensen Beach also participates in the Gregory Town Pineapple Festival, the first weekend in June.

Eleuthera has experienced many benefits as a result of the relationship with Jensen Beach.

“This is a relationship that not only fostered a lasting friendship between our two communities,” said Ms Johnson, “but it is also one that opened the door to economic benefits for all.”

The Bahamian Marketplace at the Jensen Festival allows artisans and food vendors to showcase their products. During one of the festival’s event, a Gregory Town straw vendor supplied a Jensen Beach business with much of her work. An artist also won commission work from several residents there.

Following the devastation caused by hurricane Andrew, a contingent from Jensen Beach brought plane-loads of relief supplies for Eleuthera.

In 1881, John Laurence Jensen, an immigrant from Denmark, set up a pineapple plantation which became known as the town of Jensen with the pineapple as its symbol.

Research by former Gregory Town resident Diane Thompson-Turnquest confirmed that Bahamian farmers assisted in the growth and cultivation of the Pineapple industry in Jensen.

“It is just great being here,” said Hank Johnson, Chief Councilor for Central Eleuthera (including Gregory Town). “The hospitality of the people of Jensen Beach, the way they have accepted us Eleutherans, is out of this world. We feel at home here. You would think you’re in the islands of The Bahamas.”

He was accompanied by Deputy Chief Councilor Larry Minnis and council member Aretha Rolle of James Cistern.

“They really appreciate our culture. The park came to a standstill when our Junkanoo group performed,” continued Chief Councilor Johnson. “It tells us that we have something unique and that we have to continue to build on that. Our Junkanoo culture is going someplace.”

“It’s heartwarming that Gregory Town has a sister city in Jensen Beach,” Mr. Johnson continued. “You can really see the love between them here. We can even see each other in each others’ faces. The Bahamian trend is definitely here in Jensen.

“At the Gregory Town festival, we will be right there welcoming Jensen Beach to Eleuthera and extending to them the same courtesy that they have extended to us, or better.”