Blacktip Islanders will welcome summer Saturday with the 43rd Annual Sea Grape Festival at Club Scuba Doo resort.
“Sea grapes were the difference between life and death in Blacktip’s early days,” island historian Smithson Altshul said. “They gave settlers food, shelter, fuel and drink. Some folks even crossed sea grapes with wild tobacco so they’d have a ready stock of cigars when supply ships didn’t come.
“The earliest settlements were campsites cut under the sea grape canopy for shelter from hurricanes,” Altschul said. “Black widow spiders were an issue under there, then as now, but safety from storms more than made up the occasional envenomation. The sea grape wine didn’t hurt, either. Still doesn’t.”
The festival kicks off with a parade past the island’s three beachfront resorts and continues with a grape-themed fashion show at Club Scuba Doo.
“The parade usually takes about 10 minutes,” Club Scuba Doo manager Polly Parrett said. “We caution our guests not to blink or they’ll miss it.
“We’ve also cautioned this year’s fashion show participants the event is a family affair,” Parrett added. “We had to disqualify Alison Diesel last year for violating community standards. Three strategically-placed grapes is not fashion. There were children and elderly there who simply didn’t need to see that.”
The children’s fashion show has been dropped after last year’s near-fatal mishap.
“Little Tabitha Bottoms was the most adorable sea grape leaf, complete with live black widows,” show organizer Doris Blenny said. “Then the wind picked up and blew her into the sea. Luckily she landed face up, and she floated, so they were able to fish her right out. But we can’t risk that happening again.”
Scheduled children’s activities include Pin the Leaf on the Adam and Eve, an Eight-Legged Race and the always popular Greased Feral Cat Chase.
The festival will conclude with the wine making competition.
“The sea grape wines that residents concoct are surprisingly drinkable,” Parrett said. “We have awards for reds, whites, sparkling greens and even fortified wines and brandies.”
“Last Fest, Antonio Fletcher’s rosé blew people away,” wine judge Cori Anders said. “Then ‘Tonio let it slip he’d cut his finger corking his back-bush Chablis. We’ve got damned-strict supervision in place this year. Oh, yeah, we do.”
“We’ve also got an unofficial over/under money line on how many people’ll go blind from the tastings,” Anders said. “For charity, of course. Right now the line’s at 17. Only a sucker’d take the under.”