A Year to Remeber
by Nina York
The year 2011 commemorates no event in Danish West Indies history, but nevertheless will be remembered as remarkable for its current demonstration of cross-Atlantic friendship and connection between Denmark and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Complementing the substantial number of group and individual visits to the islands during the winter months, when Denmark's climate is cold and dark, the Danish West Indian Society, a long-standing friendship organization that features exchange visits with St. Thomas and St. Croix Friends of Denmark Societies, brought 54 members here in late March. As guests in the homes of the Friends of Denmark, the group brought the attendance at the annual March 31 Transfer Day commemoration (of the day the islands changed hands to become part of the U.S.) to a record number of nearly 300 at the lovely grounds of the Carl and Marie Lawaetz Family Museum north of Frederiksted. Concurrently, as mentioned by the keynote speaker at that event, a group of 23 young Danes were experiencing a 3-month life-coaching and volunteer service seminar here, spending a month on each island and acquiring understanding of island culture.
On May 26 and 27, at Copenhagen's venerable National Museum, an exhibit and initial symposium, produced by Danish restoration architect Ulla Lunn, titled "U.S. Virgin Islands and Denmark - Our Mutual Heritage" brought together scholars from the islands and Denmark discussing historic preservation of the cultural and architectural heritage in the islands. The extensive exhibit covers several hundred years of the Danish presence here and remains at the museum till the end of October, when it moves to the maritime museum in Flensburg, Germany, in former Danish territory with a history of rich contact with the islands.
Another international friendship initiative took place late May-early June, this time also in Denmark, where the second-largest city of Aarhus hosted a Caribbean Festival that included St. Croix musicians Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights, "Doc" Petersen, and the Bill Bass Steelpan troupe, along with 12 young talented dancers and adult leaders of Music In Motion. Additionally, our Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen attended, also local artist Roy Lawaetz and wife, plus author Robert Johnson, who initiated most of the arrangements. A photographic exhibit of historic images from St. Croix was also presented. With audiences of 135,000 viewing the performances, the warm welcome extended by the city was nothing short of astounding.
But perhaps the most impressive initiative in this year's friendship exchange takes place mid-October with the start of charter flights direct from Denmark to St. Croix, bringing over 200 visitors here on a weekly basis, with most staying here two weeks. Six St. Croix hotels and four St. Thomas hotels participate in this impressive development, led by the Danish company Bravo Tours. The affordable vacations offered will surely make the islands feel almost Danish again. We welcome Bravo Tours and the vacationers they bring. We know that Crucians will make them feel right at home, with the added touch of our pleasant climate.