Dominica’s Hike Fest 2013 Gives Me a very big Surprise!

Gwendominica steadily steps along the Jaco Flats/Steps Trail during Hike Fest 2013.  Photo taken by Simon Walsh of Images Dominica for the Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association.

Gwendominica steadily steps along the Jaco Flats/Steps Trail during Hike Fest 2013. Photo taken by Simon Walsh of Images Dominica for the Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association.

When Dominica’s Hike Fest Coordinator  Maxine Alleyne-Esprit called me recently, I assumed she was going to give me the date of a forthcoming meeting to plan next year’s program. But what she actually said rendered me temporarily speechless!

“Congratulations Gwen! You won the Jolly’s Pharmacy /Digicel “Most Steps Pedometer Challenge”.  You took the most steps over the three Saturday

Gwendominica received a cheque of $500. ECD from Jolly's Pharmacy to present to her chosen charity: R.E.A.C.H.

Gwendominica received a cheque of $500. ECD from Jolly’s Pharmacy to present to her chosen charity: R.E.A.C.H. At the table are from left, DHTA Board Members: Carol Rabess, Treasurer; Maxine Esprit, Vice-President; Jessica Yarde, Director.

hikes in May, and you are the grand prize winner!” she informed me excitedly.  In response, she received my stunned silence. After a few moments, I managed to  stammer: “Me? What?  I can’t believe it!”  And then I chuckled, “Perhaps shorter legs sometimes have an advantage as they can’t help but take more steps!!!”

I was of course thrilled to receive this award, as it meant that Jolly’s Pharmacy would issue a cheque of $500.00 ECD to a charity of my choice.  There are many worthy  and worthwhile charitable organizations on the Nature Island.  After having given it some thought, I informed Maxine the next day that I would like this donation to be given to a charity called ‘Reaching Elderly  Abandoned Citizens Housebound’ (R.E.A.C.H.)’.  This  organization “seeks to relieve some of the intense suffering of the aging in the community.”  I feel very strongly about addressing  some of  the concerns of less fortunate senior citizens and I was thankful to have the opportunity to help them in a small way with my Hike Fest prize.

Gwendominica gives Sister Henrietta of Reaching Elderly Abandoned Citizens Housebound (R.E.A.C.H.) a cheque from Jolly's Pharmacy for $500. ECD.

Gwendominica gives Sister Henrietta of Reaching Elderly Abandoned Citizens Housebound (R.E.A.C.H.) a cheque from Jolly’s Pharmacy for $500. ECD.

At the Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association (DHTA) Prize-Giving and Recognition Media Event on Wednesday June 12th, I was formally presented with this prize. But what I didn’t expect was more!  Maxine informed the assembled press and public that  my mobile phone had gotten wet during the Jaco Flats/Steps Hike while crossing the Layou River several times and that it had since dried out thanks to a bag of rice.  However, the other part of the grand prize was a Smart Phone from  Digicel and the Hike Fest Committee felt that it could serve me well on future hikes! I knew I was a little pale that morning, but by now I was starting to turn quite pink!  I accepted this prize with delight.  (Now I just need to figure out how to use it!)

Gwendominica receives a Smart Phone from Calvia at Digicel as grand prize winner of the "Most Steps Pedometer Challenge".

Gwendominica receives a Smart Phone from Calvia at Digicel as grand prize winner of the “Most Steps Pedometer Challenge”.

And the surprises continued!  On behalf of the DHTA, Maxine  thanked me for my contributions to Hike Fest as a volunteer and for my blog posts about the event.  I had previously

Maxine Esprit, DHTA Vice-President/Hike Fest Coordinator presents me with a Certificate of Recognition.

Maxine Esprit, DHTA Vice-President/Hike Fest Coordinator presents me with a Certificate of Recognition.

informed her that I write from the heart and that there is no expectation of anything but interested readers for my efforts.  I appreciate this acknowledgement and theDSCF0111 promotion of Ti Domnik Tales to the press!  I was then presented with a Certificate of Recognition and another goodie – a dinner for two at the well-recommended Old Stone Grill & Bar in Roseau.  And to think that I had never eaten there before!

I was so happy that Liz, longtime hiking pod buddy and member of the 50+ club was recognized for her exceptional efforts!

I was so happy that Liz (l), longtime hiking buddy and member of the 50+ club was recognized for her exceptional efforts!

It was a very happy occasion as a number of Hike Fest participants from what I  informally call “the 50 plus club” were also recognized for their achievements on the trails.  As well, the invaluable support of all sponsors and partners who assisted the DHTA with Hike Fest were publicly thanked profusely.

In turn, I would like to extend much gratitude to the Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association and its Hike Fest Committee, as well as all the sponsors and partners who contributed to the success of this enjoyable event.  Because of this annual festivity during Tourism Awareness Month on the Nature Island, I have been able to tackle  and complete many trails that I would have never thought previously possible.  As well, I have trekked with wonderful people every time and have always had a great deal of fun.  There is no doubt in my mind:”‘Dominica’s Hike Fest. It’s the best!”

See you on the trails  next year! The dates are set:  May 24, 31 and June 7, 2014.  For more information, consult the web site of the Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association.

A Few Notes about Jazz ‘n Creole Music in May on the Nature Island

As you know by now, Dominica’s annual Hike Fest definitely has a grip on me.  But this year, I decided to sample some of the Jazz ‘n Creole offerings as well.  Sweets sounds did abound during the week of May 15th -19th, which formed part of the numerous activities during Tourism Awareness Month on the Nature Island.

While I didn’t do any of the special hikes  that were offered during that midweek time period, I did attend the Pan ‘n Jazz Soireé at the Evergreen Hotel on the evening of May 15th. When I arrived just after 7 p.m., I was surprised to see that the hotel’s dining room and bar area were packed with enthusiastic guests who were all engaged in conversation.  Because the room was so full, I remained close to the exit door.  After I few minutes, I detected beautiful sounds of steel pan, piano and saxophone drifting in from the outside patio.  I followed the melody to its source and was one of a

Dominican musiciansJulie Martin on piano (l) and his brother Athie on steel pan (l) perfectly complemented the sweet sax sounds  of Luther Francois from St. Lucia.

Dominican musicians Julie Martin on piano (l) and his brother Athie on steel pan (r) perfectly complemented the sweet sax sounds of Luther Francois from St. Lucia.

very few who stood in front of this intimate group of amazing musicians, two of whom are well-known to me.  The man playing the cool tunes on the saxophone was complete mystery.  After a couple of quick enquiries, I found out that these mellow tones were emanating from the instrument of none other than Luther Francois, St. Lucia’s acclaimed jazz saxophonist!  While the performance was low-key and the spectators were few, I delighted in the smooth music of these exquisite artistes.

Tiffany Maynes really has a presence that holds that crowd. Saxophonist Marivn Marie (r) smooth sounds blend well with her voice.  On background keyboard is Peter Letang of the Swinging Stars band.

Tiffany Mayne really has a presence that holds that crowd. Saxophonist Marvin Marie`s (r) smooth sounds blend well with her alto voice.

When their set was complete, the music moved to the seaside terrace, where the  Shades of Green band entertained with their Creole-Jazz fusion sounds.  They collected a crowd, and everyone was tapping their toes to the beat.  After their pleasing renditions, emerging jazz songstress Tiffany Mayne and popular local saxophonist  Marvin Marie of the renowned Swinging Stars  band really got the  entire gathering into the groove.  By the time I left around 10 p.m., I noticed smiles on the faces of everyone in the room.  The opening Fringe Event of Jazz ‘n Creole met with resounding success.

Tiffany really gets into the song and Marvin on sax knows how to complement her sound.

Tiffany really gets into the song and Marvin on sax knows how to complement her sound. On background keyboard (l) is Peter Letang of the Swinging Stars band.

While there was lots more to hear that week, it wasn’t until after the Jaco Flats and Jaco Steps  hike on Saturday that I got a bigger taste of  Fringe Event Jazz ‘n Creole fusion sounds. While we dined post-hike at the RiverStone Bar ‘n’ Grill near the village of Bells in the heart of Dominica, we got to relax and unwind from the morning’s exertions over some exceptional sounds.  On the patio overlooking the River Laurent, we watched cultural guru Gregory Rabess and his band bring Creole stories  to life through some of his original compositions.  With experienced back-up musicians such as the bass player  from Swinging Stars and the keyboardist from Shades of Green, the sound was tight and well rehearsed. Rabess and soprano back-up Miriam blended their voices well.  He also expressed musical sentiments through traditional drums, steel pan and guitar.  Towards the end of this Creole-Jazz Segment, a number of the  Hike Festers were on the floor moving their hips to the beat.   This was our cool-down in the mid-afternoon!  We had by then worked out any muscle soreness and stiffness that was setting in!

If you`ve read my previous post about our morning foray to Jaco Flats and Jaco Steps, you will know that my camera met the mighty Layou River and was out of commission (permanently, I think!).  Therefore, I have no photos to offer you, but I assume you might find some elsewhere online!

Most of the hikers had left by the time the hot sounds of one of Dominica`s newer bands took the stage. BREVE  is a group of young men with  a very musical, melodious,  rhythmically tight, well-rehearsed, jazzy sound that is quickly earning them top marks in Dominica and around the region.   I first saw and heard them  at the World Creole Music Festival last October.  I`ve been hooked ever since.  While they didn`t have their horn section with them  this time (saxophone and trumpet), they did not disappoint with their vibrant performance.

A big surprise of the late afternoon was a guest performance by Maxine, proprietress of RiverStone .  She is a well-known Dominican chanteuse, but I had not heard her sing for some time.  When she suddenly appeared on stage where she sang `Misty`, she had the audience in the palm of her hand!  Her 1950`s  vocal performance style, subtle gestures and expressive face absolutely captured the mood of this sultry song.  I was completely blown away by her interpretation.  Maxine, you go girl!

The second big treat of the afternoon was the song or two I heard from Golda James of Salisbury, a village on the west coast of Dominica. Her powerful, gutsy, versatile voice perfectly suited the accomplished style of all the musicians in the BREVE band.  I wish them well and can`t wait to hear them again.

Although the night was young, the remaining few  tired and bedraggled hikers departed at 5:30 p.m., as we all had places to go and things to do after our long day .

`Can`t we stay a little longer,“ pleaded Abigail.  Unfortunately not, but I reminded her that she would be heading to the main stage event at Cabrits National Park  at Portsmouth the following day. There, an assembly of superb Jazz `n Creole music makers, such as Dominica`s incomparable  Michele Henderson would entertain thousands on the grounds of restored Fort Shirley.

Abigail, I hope you had a great time!  I have no doubt that you were surrounded in mellow sounds at Dominica`s 4th annual Jazz `n Creole.  I`ll see you there next year!