Tag Archives: Caribbean Christmas

Blacktip Island Christmas Tree Lighting Goes Up In Flames

tree lighting catches fire

Blacktip Islanders are still in shock after a glitch in the lighting ceremony caused the community Christmas tree to go up in flames Wednesday evening. (photo courtesy of Fir0002)

Blacktip Island’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony went awry Wednesday night when misunderstood directions resulted in the community tree catching fire and burning down, event organizers said.

“The lights were strung, the kids’ ornaments were hung and the tree was perfect,” chamber of commerce President Kay Valve said. “We were all gathered around the tree, holding hands and singing “I Believe in Father Christmas,” then WHOOSH! We had a Christmas fire-nado.

“Dermott Bottoms had been working on the tree and the holiday bonfire and got confused,” Valve said. “When we said, ‘light the tree,’ he took that literally and held a lighter to it. The rum on his breath acted as an accelerant. For a second he looked like a holiday dragon.”

Onlookers described a chaotic scene.

“The crowd was ducking for cover, and people were rolling on the ground to put out the sparks on their clothes and hair,” Rusty Goby said. “Other palm trees went up, too. The flames got up high in the fronds and spread, well, like wildfire.

“We formed an ad-hoc volunteer fire brigade—basically anyone sober enough to handle a bucket or wield a hose,” Goby said. “Somehow we managed to save the nearby structures. That’s our Christmas miracle this year. The whole community’s still in shock, though.”

Island emergency workers say physical injuries were minimal.

“Little Shelly Bottoms lost an eyebrow,” island nurse Marissa Graysby said. “She’s scheduled for some heavy-duty therapy as soon as the holiday season’s over, but, then, we all are. The only other person injured was Dermott, but his skin’s so tough, he only has first-degree burns. I’m pretty sure he still doesn’t feel anything.”

Some worried about the long-term impact on the community.

“We tried the Whoville thing where we gathered around what’s left of the tree and sang holiday songs, but that fell flat, and people choked on the ashes,” Elena Havens said. “Now we’re moving ahead with an alternative community tree to regain a sense of the holidays.

“We’ll have a Christmas sea grape shrub instead,” Havens said. “It’ll be festive and fire resistant. We’re also taking donations for new strings of lights, and the school kids are in overdrive making replacement ornaments. That’s helping a lot of them work through seeing their other ornaments incinerate.”

Others in the community downplayed the incident.

“It’s Blacktip Island. It’s not the holidays unless something goes horribly wrong,” Clete Horn said. “This year, the catastrophe’s out of the way early. Now we can relax and enjoy the rest of the season in peace.”

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Blacktip Island Players Stage Dueling Christmas Plays

Dueling Xmas

Blacktip Island Community Players cast members try on various costumes Thursday at the BICP’s holiday play dress rehearsals. The BICP will perform Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and a Nativity play simultaneously to address a secular-vs.-religious divide among island residents. (photo courtesy of istolethetv).

Debate over the appropriate theme for Blacktip Island’s annual Christmas play has resulted in the Blacktip Island Community Players staging two different holiday plays simultaneously at the Caribbean island’s Heritage House, BICP representatives said Thursday.

“When we started planning things, there was a vocal contingent that wanted the play to focus on Jesus’ birth,” BICP director Doris Blenny said. “Others wanted a more lighthearted performance. We tried to incorporate both viewpoints, but that was a hot mess. The solution was to stage two plays.

“We’ll have a traditional Nativity play in a scale-model, turn-of-the-millennium Judean manger on the lawn, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer inside,” Blenny said. “We’re staging them simultaneously so people can choose which to watch.”

Some community leaders opposed the two-play solution.

“Jesus is the reason for the season. If we don’t keep that in focus, who will?” said the Rev. Pierre Grunt. “Religion is the heart of this community. Or should be. The Santa-and-reindeer play is misguided, and we’re encouraging folks to boycott it. And they don’t, well, they’ll have to walk past our manger scene to get inside.”

Others supported the dueling plays.

“We kicked around a bunch of inclusive options, but this was the only practical one,” said the former Rev. Jerrod Ephesians, chair of the Blacktip Island Ecumenical Council. “The runner up was a Baby Jesus vs. Santa cage match, and we axed that pretty quick. Our bottom line is whatever gets people out and involved is, by definition, good for the community. And people really enjoyed last year’s ‘Grinch’ production.”

Actors say the two-play option has stretched the island’s thespian community thin.

“Staging two plays simultaneously showcases new talent, but it has us reaching deep into the pool of performers,” BICP member Elena Havens said. “Actors chose which play to participate in based on their beliefs, or lack thereof, though we did ask the tone-deaf actors to opt for the non-musical Nativity play.

“The downside is we had to reduce the number of parts in both performances,” Havens said. “There’ll only be one shepherd in the manger, and it’s impossible to find a Wise Man on this island, so we axed that role entirely.”

Casts of the two plays include:

Rudolph

  • Payne Hanover as Rudolph
  • Cori Anders as Clarice
  • Finn Kiick as Hermey the Elf
  • Elena Havens as Santa
  • Jessie Catahoula as Yukon Jack
  • James Conlee as The Abominable Snow Monster of the North

Nativity

  • Kay Valve as Baby Jesus
  • Lee Helm as Mary
  • Marina DeLow as Joseph
  • Alison Diesel as The Shepherd
  • Dermott Bottoms as The Camel

Some cast members see the two-play solution as a growth opportunity.

“It really gives us a chance to stretch our abilities as actors,” Marina DeLow said. “So far the only real gaffe was during dress rehearsals the arrival of the shepherd outside was interrupted by Payne Hanover inside yelling, ‘She thinks I’m cuuuuuute!’ over and over.”

Many residents see the two plays as a holiday blessing.

“We get two plays instead of one,” Chrissy Graysby said. “We’re taking the kiddos to Rudolph Saturday, then the Nativity Sunday. Then we’ll celebrate Kwanza right after Christmas.”

The plays will be performed at 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through December 22.

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Singing Coral Head Highlights Blacktip Island Holiday Festivities

singing xmas coral

Gage Hoase and Alison Diesel wear Christmas tree worm caps Thursday night during the dress rehearsal of the Blacktip Island Acapella Society’s underwater Singing Coral Head. (photo courtesy of Nick Hobgood)

The Blacktip Island Acapella Society will eschew its traditional Singing Christmas Tree choral performance this Sunday night in favor of an underwater Singing Coral Head, with singers dressed as Christmas tree worms instead of ornaments, to celebrate the Caribbean island’s bond with its coral reefs.

“Instead of a choir in a giant tree, we’re doing a choir in a coral head,” director Donna Requin said. “We wanted to do something traditional, yet scuba themed, given the importance of scuba diving to the island.

“We’ll be giving Christmas favorites an aquatic twist,” Requin said. “The singers will wear big, bushy bonnets that mimic actual Christmas tree worms. It’s not some tacky holiday stunt, though. We’re being fully respectful of the holiday and the reef. We’re calling it A Merry Fishmas Choral Head.”

Songs include:

  • God Rest Ye Merry Jawfish
  • It Came Upon The Viz So Clear
  • Snapping Shrimp We Have Heard On High
  • Have Yourself A Merry Little Night Dive
  • Fishmastime Is Here

Singers will perform in full-face masks, with songs played on underwater speakers.

“The masks muffle our voices a bit, and the hydrophones distort them, but that adds to the effect,” tenor Gage Hoase said. “The idea is to get people to see Christmas, and the reef, in a new light.

“Singing on scuba actually solved one of our problems,” Hoase said. “We needed a soprano, but no one could hit those high notes. Then Alison Diesel switched from air to heliox and BAM! She sounds like Maria Callas. In that range, anyway.”

Some in the community were critical of the concept.

“It’s another cheesy holiday train wreck,” Blacktip Haven resort owner Elena Havens said. “Last year’s underwater Nativity scene made from old tires was an absolute embarrassment. We’re still getting trashed on Trip Advisor for it.

“‘Different’ doesn’t always mean ‘creative,’ especially when it trivializes the holiday,” Havens said. “People singing underwater wearing silly hats? That’s not Christmas. And what about people who don’t dive? Our church caroling is inclusive of everyone. Who celebrates Christmas.”

Requin brushed aside the criticism.

“The ‘caroling at the church’ audience has been dwindling for years,” she said. “Our choral head will be a breath of fresh air. Or freshly-compressed air.

“For those who don’t dive, or don’t care to dive, the singing can be heard quite clearly from a boat,” Requin said. “It’s quite ethereal. And non divers can also enjoy the performance via a live feed in the Sand Spit bar, where they’re welcome to sing along.”

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Vandal Stuffs Toys For Tots Bins With Pole Spears

Some of the undocumented lionfish spears seized from Blacktip Island youngsters this week. The source of the spears has not been determined.

Some of the undocumented lionfish spears seized from Blacktip Island youngsters this week. The source of the spears has not been determined.

Blacktip Islanders were shocked this week to find the Caribbean island’s Toys for Tots bins had been filled with pole spears normally used for lionfish culling.

“What sort of monster would give spears to children?” said island resident Ginger Bass, a mother of three. “And why? Someone’s really out to ruin Christmas.”

The situation was made worse by delinquents overturning the bins and stealing the spears.

“Children raid the bins every year,” said retired Sgt. Maj. Beaugregory Damsil, who oversees the island’s Toys for Tots program. “The bins aren’t guarded, and the little scamps know toys are inside. Usually, the worst that happens is some tyke nicks a Tickle Me Elmo or something of the sort.

“This year, though, they’ve stolen lethal weapons and passed them around willy-nilly. With so many children running about with so many spears, falling and putting one’s eye out is the least of our worries.”

Island authorities are seizing the pole spears as they find them.

“I corralled a bunch of kids today playing cullers-and-lionfish,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Had to take three ‘lionfish’ to the clinic for patching up.

“We’re confiscating spears fast at we can, but things are nowhere near under control,” IPC Marquette said. “We’ve no idea who’s leaving the spears, where they’re getting them or how many are still out there.”

Fourteen spear-related injuries have been confirmed: 13 punctures, plus a skull fracture to a child blasted backwards after he speared an automobile tire. There are also unconfirmed reports of several punctured house cats.

“Thankfully, the tines aren’t barbed,” island physician Dr. Azul Tang said. “The wounds bleed a good bit, but they’re all fairly clean flesh wounds.”

The situation has left many locals shaken.

“The bigger issue’s how this destroys the island’s Christmas spirit,” Club Scuba Doo manager Polly Parrett said. “I mean, someone’s also running around stealing all our trees and ornaments. It’s like Christmas is being taken from us bit by bit.”

Island authorities would not comment on multiple reports of a man, wearing only a Santa coat and hat, lurking around toy collection centers earlier in the week, or that a small dog accompanying him may or may not have had a stick tied to its head.

“This situation’s volatile enough without crazy rumors,” IPC Marquette said. “All we know at this point is whoever’s responsible is a mean one, with a brain full of spiders and garlic in his soul.”

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